On a recent frosty morning, Barley and I set out on our usual morning walk through the woods, Barley with his stick, me with my Nikon. Barley is always searching for bones as I look for beauty, but on that particular morning, it was hard to look past the effects of the ice storm of January 27, 2009. Beginning that night, three years ago, a large swath of country, from Missouri and Arkansas east, was gripped by its effects, with downed trees and power outages, which lasted in some places for as long as a month.
Before that time, I had never thought of ice as being devastating, but all that night, with over 3/4 inch of ice coating everything, large branches and trees fell to the ground, shattering with a sound like gunshots.
The view from our windows the next morning was chilling, and the ground around the house was a maze of broken trees and branches. It took months to get our grounds cleaned up. Since that time we've reclaimed a few trails through the woods, but we won't live long enough to clean up all the woods on this acreage.
Now, after all this time, the devastation in the woods is not too obvious in the summer, when leaves cover some of the damage, or at least draw the attention away, but in the winter, it can look pretty stark. I usually point my camera away from this rubble, or crop it out, because there is always some beauty to be found.
I'm not saying this to elicit sympathy, but rather to inject a dose of reality into my sometimes rosy look at the world. After all, we all see ugliness, in one form or another, and we deal with it in various ways.
Along with the ground nesting wildlife, and, of course, the termites and spiders, I'm growing to appreciate this old, battered woods, because it reminds me that ultimately, my hope doesn't lie in this world. Those broken trees waken that longing in me for the place Jesus promised to those who love Him, where:
...there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Rev. 21:4
Your eyes will see the King in His beauty, and view a land that stretches afar. There the Lord will be our Mighty One; it will be a place of broad rivers and streams. Isaiah 33:17, 20
"I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." John 14:2, 3
Back down to earth on that particular day, we followed the trail to a quiet, grassy opening in the woods, rimmed by cedars. There, the ground is rocky; no trees have found a foothold. But Barley found a bone.
You could say that I found beauty that day, too, but not just the kind we see with our eyes.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18