This week has been full of stellar skies in my area. The lack of clouds allowed me to see the first rays of the sunrise, as well as the stars throughout the evening hours. The sliver of a crescent moon smiling each morning in the east is a welcome sight with hope for positivity each day. Since the beginning of the week, Venus and Mars have been visible at dawn. Venus has been sinking lower and Mars rising higher each day. This morning, Venus was no longer visible, as it has sunk below the horizon line. Mars is now higher in the sky, well above the crescent moon. Watching the movement of the planets and the shape of the moon change has been a reminder that nature and life are constantly changing and altering our path upon the journey.
Also this week, I watched a brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) flutter and fuss about in a seemingly aimless path. This type of bug is considered a true bug because its mouth parts are not designed for biting and chewing, but rather consist of a tube used to pierce plants in order to suck out the juices. Though the bug is a true bug, it seems to have no sense of true north or any direction.
As I watched the insect crawl, fly, crawl, fly, crawl some more, and repeat this process for random time periods, I wondered aloud, “What are you trying to accomplish?”
As the words left my mouth, I realized God must ask the same question of me at times, for there are days when my activities have purpose and meaning, and days when I seem to wander without a sense of direction. There are also days when I ask God the same question, wondering where we are going and why He is leading me on a particular path. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I am misinterpreting God’s directions, and that is why I feel so lost.
As with many life questions, we may never learn the answer entirely, but we can do our best to have faith, work diligently despite the lack of direction, and trust that in time we will either find the answer, no longer need the answer, or be content not to know the answer. Perhaps the following quote says it best:
“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’m On a Mission
The same day I watched the stink bug, I came across a wooly bear caterpillar (also known as a tiger moth after reaching adult stage) during one of my walks. The wiggling mass of brown and black hairs slowly but diligently moved in a straight line across the road. “Well, you certainly are on a mission, aren’t you?” I asked as I stopped to get a picture.
As I turned and headed back along my path, I came across the caterpillar once again. The little creature had indeed crossed the road and was now up on the curb, diligently plugging along in a fairly straight line, but in a different direction. I wondered if the caterpillar had changed direction to avoid the rougher terrain past the curb, or if it had other reasons.
Like the caterpillar, we often change course throughout life. Sometimes we have reasons, other times we don’t feel we have a choice, and still other times we don’t have a reason, yet feel an internal tug that says, “Turn here.”
Our changes in direction often give us different perspectives and vantage points, opening our eyes and minds to events, options, or ideas we did not realize existed prior to our change in course. Perhaps this is one reason why nature keeps changing, offering us examples to follow and observe with the hope we notice and act upon what we see or experience. Though change can be difficult to accept and endure, it is a necessary fact of our lives. Another way to view this is illustrated in the following quote:
“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Look at This!
The other day while walking the dogs, my dog Leo pulled on his leash, dragging me in a different direction than we normally take around the yard. He was definitely fixated on something, moving with quick steps, nose to the ground, eyes focused straight ahead. Suddenly, Leo stopped, opened his mouth, and tried to eat a large round mushroom. I quickly ordered him to stop, which he did.
Mushrooms can be very toxic to dogs, so I was relieved Leo listened (not that I expected any less, for he is a good dog and not one to rebel). I reasoned that Leo had thought the mushroom was an apple and did not know the danger of eating it. Leo is still young, so pretty much everything goes into his mouth, which is his way of exploring the world. He and my dog Sadie look forward to picking up fallen apples from the apple tree in the side yard, which we pass on our walks each day. I noticed recently that Leo is attracted to all round objects he comes upon and tries to eat them.
My experience with Leo made me realize that we often misinterpret what we see in life. The misinterpretation may be due to lack of experience or knowledge, misguidance, or even jumping to conclusions before we know the facts. Regardless of the reasons, we need to be careful not only with what we see, but also with what we hear, taste, touch, and encounter. While we can’t guard ourselves against every evil, we can be cautious and try our best to maintain a good balance of known and unknown, expected and unexpected, and reasonable and unreasonable.
Open Your Eyes
The mushroom adventure with Leo also made me realize that we have a good variety of mushrooms growing in our yard, as well as in the surrounding area. In my runs, bike rides, and walks, I found the following types:
- Puffball, aptly named for its size and shape, known for its dense inner core that becomes powdery with age. This is the type Leo found in our yard.
- Pear-shaped puffball, a white to light brown fungus found living in clusters on rotten logs, mulch beds, and stumps
- Chanterelle, known for its frilly edges, crevices, and ridges
- Flat topped, distinguished by its white cap with gray or brown scales
- Honeycomb bracket fungus, known for its reddish-yellow to brick red colored caps, often found on dead trees, stumps or logs
Though I always search for something new during my runs and bike rides, I realized I had become fixated on flower blooms throughout the summer and had fallen into a funk lately without any new blooms for fall. Looking around with a different focus, I found:
- The molting process in the pine trees had ceased and new, green needles now cloaked the white pines in my area, creating a vibrant green fringe along the roadsides
- The recent rain has transformed the dormant grass into a green sea, almost as if spring had arrived
- Though the lack of rain and warm temperatures are turning most of the leaves on the trees rather drab colors, there are some exceptions of bright red maples and oaks, deep yellow poplars and hickories, rusty cherries, and deep purple plums
My experience reminded me that we often need to open our eyes and see beyond the surface in order to find what we are (or in some cases are not) seeking. This reminded me of a parable Jesus told regarding cleanliness. He rebuked the Pharisees for only cleaning the outside of the cups and not the inside of the soul:
But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but within you are full of robbery and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too?” – Luke 11:39-40
I wondered how many times in life we pass up opportunities to learn, grow, and share because of our blindness.
Finding Our Way
Just as when we lack direction in life, if we fail to see either the obvious or the hidden, we can become lost. The good news is in order to be found, we must first be lost. While this is not the most comforting thought in the world, it is something to contemplate and reflect upon.
Whether we feel lost, found, or stuck somewhere in between the two, we can use our faith as a compass and our trust in God as a light to find our way. We can also turn to nature, opening our eyes and minds to its examples in order to help prioritize our activities or determine our directions.
“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow them.” – Louisa May Alcott
May the clear skies of October filled with stellar sights allow us to see along our journey. May what we see along the way help to open our eyes, give us direction for our path, and provide inspiration and strength for the miles remaining throughout the changes in our lives.
Throughout the Changes in Our Lives
Crescent moon in the morning sky
Smiling through the last moments of the night
Spreading hope in the atmosphere
As the sun starts to glow in the horizon made clear
With the whisper of the wind
Blowing hither and fro again
Above the frosty dew upon the grass
Beneath the blue heavens grasp,
Held within the Lord’s hands at all times
Throughout the changes in our lives.
Mother and fawns in the woods at daybreak
Place their trust upon the Lord’s grace,
Staring intently into the distance at the rising sun
Quietly existing as the moments run
Through time’s river to the sea
Where youth is renewed along with energy
To guide the soul upon the path
As life unfolds and circles back,
Ebbing and flowing with nature’s tides
Throughout the changes in our lives.
Ball of orange setting in the west
As the clouds form and reflect
The light of the sun at the end of the day
Creating shadows that run as the light fades
Through the treetops now with more branches than leaves
Because of autumn’s expanding reach
Taking the daylight from the sky
And transforming it into the night
Where the crickets’ symphony
Rocks the soul within to sleep
After being tossed about under the sun and rain in the skies
Throughout the changes in our lives.
-Lisa A. Wisniewski
Resources and Related Links
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug – http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/brown-marmorated-stink-bug
Woolly Bear Caterpillar – https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Pyrrharctia-isabella