|Chalet Arbreux near Orkney Springs, Virginia
I had a place in the wooded foothills of Church Mountain
in the Shenandoah Valley that I named Arbreux. Until I moved there, I knew little
of the natural world because I had lived in cities and had been until then only a casual observer. I purposed then to acquaint myself with the names and life of wildflowers, birds, woodland creatures, and
trees that inhabited this place. Although I had a legal deed and clear title
to this property, gradually I came to comprehend that I was not the owner but merely a passer-by in the long history of these
long eroded softly covered volcanic hills. If any, the deer, squirrels, chipmunks,
rabbits, and other woodland creatures were the real owners because generations of them had lived here since the Creation. When it came time to leave Arbreux, I felt that I was only beginning to understand
how to fully appropriate the rich blessings of the natural world. Friends had
given me textbooks, nature guides, and other materials to help me in my quest to become a faithful steward of those nearly
seven acres. I did what little I could to prune and tidy the place, but very
soon I discovered that the place itself was pruning me, giving me the wisdom to know how meager my knowledge and how futile
my efforts to make the environment conform to my na´ve misguided idea of what it should be.
So Arbreux remained essentially unchanged while I myself was transformed.
at Arbreux brought me a growing appreciation for the changing seasons. I
watched summer butterflies ballet amidst the wildflowers, read of monarchs migrating to Mexico and Costa Rica as September
came, and found myself lost in wonder. In autumn, I marveled at the rich tapestry
of these hills, and although partially color-blind, I gave thanks for the abundant beauty of my world as the hills blazed
in intensity. I picked up fallen leaves of every sort, spread them on my dining
table to examine them close-up, and discovered that each of them had a unique life story to tell. Winters came on with blizzards
and deep snows to blanket the woods in silence, forcing me to be still and listen with my heart. I built a fire against the chill and warmly welcomed the company of birds (squirrels and chipmunks,
too) to my feeders. Late winters found me haunting the good earth for any
sign of new life emerging. Spring times were the most glorious of all,
reminding me in magical moments of Resurrection and life everlasting. Gentle
winds blew through the oaks and pines like elfin zephyrs of the Holy Spirit touching my heart and soul. I discovered delicately beautiful rue anemones blooming abundantly in the front meadow and knew them to
be as fragile and as ephemeral as life itself in the grand scheme of the unknown, yet they lived on to bloom and enchant me
year after year. Likewise, the same family of phoebes returned each spring to
birth a new generation of flycatchers under my eve. Daffodils I planted
each fall trumpeted benedictions. I gave thanks for all this evidence that life
goes on. All the while Scripture encouraged me to share the Good
News. So I set forth with great joy to publish glad tidings, singing the song
of a soul set free.
Blue Ridge Mountains.....