Yesterday I had the pleasure of observing the many miles of snow covered land between the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. It is one of my favorite drives. I love looking out at the various farms, some looking modern with ranch-style, one level houses and others with the white, two-story structures with wrap around porches. The barns in their various colors….red, lots of red……green…..brown…….white……even blue…..make colorful markings against the stark white of the rolling fields. In some places straw or stray cornstalks interrupt the snowy landscape making their death-brown look much more beautiful than it really is. In just a few short months(we hope!) the rich soil will be teeming with seeds and growth. Corn and soybeans will once again create the picture of abundance out the car window. But for now there is white, shining brilliant and crusted from strong winds and powerful doses of sunshine.
After several miles of allowing my eyes to take in this wintry scene, I began to notice the places where paths had been cut in the snow. There were those places where snowmobiles zoom by at what seems tremendous speeds, cutting this way and that at the sides of the roads, often charging across the road like the deer we know to what out for in autumn. These paths were made for fun and a sense of freedom.
There were cross country ski paths that meandered through open fields and into the woods that ring the highway. The sight of those paths bring a feeling of calm and that whooshing sound that is only made by the sound of skis on snow. I imagined the skiers moving away from the frantic traffic of the highway into the depths of the woods where they stopped to catch their breath. Allowing the silence they now had found to wash over them, I thought of them drinking in the smell of the evergreens, the moist earth, the air that chilled their lungs. These were paths for connecting to the earth and to one’s heartbeat.
Every now and then I would notice other paths made not by humans or their toys but by animals whose footprints were too far away for me to identify. One set of prints created this wonderful winding, circular pattern, in and out, around and back, as if they had been playing a child’s chasing game. This path made me smile.
Then, of course, there were the paths made by the faithful, predictable cows as they headed from the field where they had been observing bovine life. At some signal known only to them, they turned from the spot where they had spent the morning or afternoon and headed toward the barn, to be milked and to be fed. Their path was one of habit and nurture.
Paths. We travel them everyday. Some we travel so often we no longer see the scenery we pass by. I have often driven for several blocks, perhaps even longer, and have no memory of having done so, the path is so familiar to me. Have you ever done this? It’s rather sad in a way to think that those places we know best have nothing left to offer us in the way of surprise.
There are the paths we choose and those that become the detour we never expected or wanted. And yet, there the path is unfolding before us and we have no choice but to take step after step after step until we make some sense of where it is taking us. I know several people right now who are trying to make sense of the detour that has become their path. May God bless them.
One of my favorite scriptures is from Jeremiah: “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” The fact of the matter is that sometimes the ancient paths, the good way, can seem quite elusive. Or it can seem as if we are walking a path that continues to turn and turn in ways that create anxiety and fear. Still other times, we can be paralyzed by not being able to choose which way to turn on the path that lies before us. Every now and then we are blessed with an understanding of our path that is so sure, so true, we walk confidently, with assurance, never looking back.
Wherever you are on the path this day, may you find some ancient wisdom that holds you, some goodness that unfolds before you, and some deep rest for your soul.