February 2, 2010 by Ellen Stimson in Country Living, Spirituality

Oh my glory. I have a friend who says this when she is amazed or appalled. She says it the way we in our family toss off the oh my Gods. Says it casually both with and without emphasis on the glory depending on how significant is the surprise in the emotion.

I like the sound of the word glory. I like how it conjures up an older world than the one I live in. I know it is a kindly substitute for the word God and likely originated from an impulse not take the Lord’s name in vain. There was a time when this courtly attention to that particular detail would have annoyed me. But no more. The older I get the happier I am that people have these little quirks and traditions that reflect the beliefs that they carry with them throughout their lives. I have plenty of my own, mostly unexamined, that are part of how I speak, how the world sees me, as reflective of who I am just as surely as the color of my hair or my preference for chocolate.

We moved to Vermont to have lives closer to the natural world. Surely there was more spirituality in the woods beside a mountain stream than in a mall looking at one more pair of shoes. The Christianity that we grew up with didn’t really work for us anymore. I loved the warmth and idea of belonging I had growing up in my church family but Christianity and I could never really work it out. I have tasted lots of other religions over the years flirting with several and going steady with the Unitarians. I miss that old sense of community and when my friend says oh my glory it all comes flooding back. I can see the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows and hear the organ and feel myself ready to rise and sing the doxology.

But more often God and I get together around a perfectly silent snowfall. The temperatures dip and sway, and our lives are colored by them in ways both big and small. At minus ten all of your decisions seem to have something to do with the cold. Then the fat snowflakes come floating down in silent beauty and I am in awe of all that the world offers me. A crushing snow, like the ones we had early last month, blanket the world and silence the wind and take my breath away with their power and ability to transform not just what I see but what I think about too. I go to the waterfall and the rush and roar of the water fills up my senses and I feel lucky and blessed to live in this beautiful old place filled with wild turkeys and deer and bears who have lived here a lot longer than we have. They may not have a little piece of paper titling them to this land or that house but their claim is deeper and more solid and cannot be threatened by the vagaries of something as flimsy as an economy.

I love the life we have made up here. I notice how it does slip quickly by, and how much of it I have already wasted worrying about things that are not really important, and that will not matter much come summer and maybe not even come spring. One takes a longer view when one s surrounded by nature more than by the next season’s retail offerings. The old signals I used for marking seasons were the Halloween or Christmas decorations in the stores. Spring had come when the tulips were blooming in all the grocery stores long before the first crocus had poked up her head. Now in this place it is as subtle as the way the light lengthens in the afternoon over the mountains or the sun lingers on a melting patch of snow. Our days are filled with the little signs of time passing and the gentle grace and inevitability of the next season. Time passes more slowly up here and I can hear my breath coming and going.

I left this space to write a book last year. And I have done a lot of writing about stories that happened a long time ago. Now I want to write about what’s happening here and now and worry about the editing later. I want to pay attention to the return of the squirrels and make sure I see the first robin. It’s still winter sure, but a warmer phase of the one we have is coming. There will be more snow but more sun too. I want to be awake for all of it. I want to bask in these old glories. I want to tell the story of now….

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