Morning By Morning New Mercies: Lamentations 3: 22-25
I’m not much of a lass for winter. I love warm, long, sunny days, walking barefoot especially on the earth, the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze, bullfrogs croaking in the pond. And I am buoyed by the fact that in 40 days, the sun will set at 7 pm. As it should be.
But here we are at winter’s midpoint, and Tuesday started out mild, but I knew what was coming—and by today there was an inch of ice followed by four inches of snow on the ground. And when the dogs whined at the bedroom door before dawn, I knew they were excited to get out and make some tracks, chase some unfortunate squirrels, hurling themselves headlong into the brush. Finnegan, the black Thunder Twin especially goes zipping along like one of those bouncing balls in the old movie sing-a-longs, running a couple of strides and then flying 15 feet through the air as his stockier sister Dakota struggles to keep-up with a sideways lope reminding me of a college friend’s old tan Volvo with a ruined rear differential and bent frame. Dakota’s front feet head to the north, and her back feet slightly align to the north-north-east. Their older brother Kobe trots stiffly out into the deep woods to do what needs to be done and get the heck back in the house. He and I understand each other.
Standing in puffy coat, ivy cap, sweatpants and wellington boots, I realize we all probably look quite a sight were there anyone but some annoyed wildlife to see us. But once the dogs zoom temporarily around the house, the quiet slides like a curtain softly back into place. Dawn begins to break to the east, and I notice a large shape move into the trees above me, absolutely silently—and I see the dim silhouette of one of the three barred owls that we can often hear calling back and forth from ridge to grove to pond’s edge. The sound of the snow sizzling to the ground is actually louder than this large bird alighting delicately into the naked crown of a tree. I watch it swiveling its head for a few seconds, and then without so much as disturbing a branch it suddenly flings itself downward and and snaps open its sail-like wings with military efficiency, and disappears from view.
And at that moment, these words sing in my inner ear:
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest–
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love!
Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see!
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
Mercy upon grace upon faithfulness swirl with the snowflakes that dance overhead amid the pinwheel of wingtip vortices still unspooling in the air from that one snap of wings—the one reminder that the owl had ever been there. The snowflakes then slide languidly again toward the drift under the cypress tree, but the sense of peace lingers long.
It is as if the Holy Spirit hangs lovingly overhead, gazing in all directions in protection and care. All that I need in this moment is right here: peace and beauty and the mercy of a fresh snow making all things new in this moment. And I might have missed it. If I had not been here to witness it, the miracle of this brake of trees and this ghostly apparition sailing silently into the flickering half-light, I would not now be singing into the dawn the praises of our ever-faithful God, our portion and our hope. Let this memory be always a blessing.
Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts prayers, meditations, and sermons at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.