Look around…can you see? Trees and rocks and plants. Over there in the shadow of those old oak trees lies a stream. It’s been here forever-or as close to forever as you and I could imagine. Indian children once played in that stream, their tribe bathed in it, drew water from it, drew life itself from it. They lived up there on the rise in the shelter of that mighty hill. You know they planted corn here, and squash and beans too. They hunted deer and rabbit and everything else that traverses these woods. God put them here for a reason, though they didn’t know God then. But they knew that they’d been blessed to be put here.
Close your eyes, sharpen your ears and listen to the muffled sounds. With so much to dampen the noise around us it’s easy to miss hearing everything that’s going on in these woods. The squirrels busily looking for food, finding it and tentatively digging a spot to place it-to store his good fortune.
A rabbit is resting in her warren, just over there beneath the root of a fallen gum tree. She has just given birth-life again-many in fact, five or six little ones for her to nurture. The babies are there, eyes tightly shut, furless, helpless and completely innocent of the world just outside the small entrance to their home. So unaware of the fox or the hawk, the cougar and the bear, all those other creatures that God put here, right beside the Indians.
Can you hear the leaves in the trees? They brush each other in the wake of the breeze and make music. Whether we realize it or not, they speak to our souls on a level we don’t appreciate. Listen to them and remember their songs, they are fleeting just like us and without them our souls would suffer.
Still have your eyes shut? Can you hear the stream? There are several large boulders rising from the water. The clear, cold water never stops ebbing alongside the blues and grays of those massive rocks. Rocks worn smooth by running water from many millennia. Those boulders are witnesses to many things. So many moons, too numerous to count, to animals perching on them long enough to take a sip of water from the stream or to bask in the warm sunshine on brisk days. They’ve witnessed humans-all kinds of people from all ages. They’ve witnessed birth, life and death. They’ve been warmed by the sun during drought and they’ve hidden beneath rushing torrents of flooding. At the base of those boulders where the stream tugs and pushes, the water is slowed and in those somewhat stiller places are tiny crawfish and tadpoles. Tiny fish call the bellies of these boulders home. They swim and dart through the stream, sometimes fighting against the current of the water, searching for whatever it is they eat. After feeding they return to the safety of that big boulder.
Do you smell the richness of the earth? Keep your eyes shut and move a step…the scent is slightly different. A unique blend of everything God put here. That’s something else…did you notice the breeze? It’s nothing like the wind that stirs on top of the mountain. Here the breeze swirls around you, caressing you, reminding you to reach out with all your senses and notice things. The leaves and needles from last year’s fall are molding underfoot, being slowly reclaimed by their great host.
Do you smell the wildflowers? They’re delicate warm scent is dancing on the breeze. They’re subtle too; not flashy like some flowers. In this valley they grow in small bursts of color where the sun can reach them and warm them. Growing in small clumps, they remind us life is small and fleeting. They also tell us that no matter where we are, God is with us. Can you smell the hearty pine and the pungent cedar? Evergreens―always awake even through the cold of winter; they remind us in the depths of winter that there is still life here. Sentries for the forest; always present they provide the green when all the other trees sleep.
Now open your eyes and look around. The valley isn’t a hole we’re in―it’s not a low spot in life―it is shelter. It allows us to stop and reflect, to see everything around us. True, it doesn’t have the same majesty and glory like being at the top of that mountain. But the valley is renewal, with the stream and the rich earth and the plants and animals-it’s to cherished because without the valley, we wouldn’t understand and couldn’t appreciate the mountain peak.