Epiphany

Christmas has come and gone, all 55 days of the commercial season, which began the day after Halloween, as well as the twelve days of the liturgical one (December 25 through January 5). Epiphany, too, (the day, January 6) is behind us, although the liturgical season will be with us through Fat Tuesday.

Epiphany, from the Greek word, reveal. In the Christian church, Epiphany refers to the revelation of God’s physical presence in the world—the universal Christ in the form of the baby, Jesus. In secular usage, an epiphany is a revelation or realization of a deep truth.

Last year, January 6 became another of those days that will live in infamy, a different kind of epiphany, the day on which the depth of this nation’s social and political disfunction was revealed to the world and to ourselves. A year later, the disfunction has hardened, and the wounds show no sign of healing.

I have been struggling with these two epiphanies, one of light, the other of darkness. Torn between despair and hope, it is the signs of hope that I cling to. 

Just after Christmas, Archbishop Desmond Tutu died. A few days ago, we observed the Martin Luther King national holiday. Against terrible odds, these men found hope and the courage to work for justice. In their lives and witness, I find hope. 

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After a crazily warm November and December—mid 70s on New Year’s Day—temperatures plummeted into a cold and wet January. Mona gets walked usually four times a day—long walks including down into our woods and meadow—so that means donning boots and heavy coat or rain gear many times a day.

Winter at Last!

All that walking helps to burn off her excess energy and keeps me from getting lazy (maybe part of Nancy’s agenda in talking me into getting another dog?). With Nancy’s training and patience, Mona has mellowed into something of a lap dog. Cuddle time and exercise! The annoyance and inconvenience bring lots of compensation.

When the weather is suitable, I combine a work session in the woods or meadow with one or more of those daily walks. Loading The Goat with tools and a cable to tie her to, Mona and I trek down one of the pathways, and I spend time cutting, trimming, digging. 

I have three huge brush piles, each growing faster than they decompose. We are trying to build up—a native, wildlife friendly habitat. But that requires some tearing out. Edges I would like to fill in with shrubs and forbs must first be cleared of invasive bittersweet vine and privet and rampant raspberry tangles. We’ve removed some small trees for aesthetic reasons. Much of the constant rain of deadfall from the large overstory trees can be left lying where it fell, but some needs to be removed from paths and open areas. It all adds up.

The heavy plastic silage tarp we are using to smother weeds has been moved to its third location, after a year at each of the first two sites. The roughly 100 x 25 foot strip at site #2 has been seeded with the same native wildflower mix we used on site #1. The experiment is a mixed success. The wildflowers are a great replacement for what we smothered out. But already the ground ivy has reinvaded site #1 or was not adequately killed back by a year without light. And this infestation is probably more than we can control by hand weeding. Barring a heavy chemical treatment, which would kill the wildflowers, we may be stuck with the ground ivy. 

It is cold, and we are still in the depths of winter. But signs of spring are emerging. We have a few snowdrop blooms, and lots of daffodil stems are pushing up. A few weeks ago, we saw a doe being followed by her successful suitor, while a rejected one still hung around in the background. Life goes on. May Epiphany shine through all our darker epiphanies.

Snow on the Cumberlands

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