I couldn’t wait to get into the woods this past weekend. Saturday morning’s agenda started with sipping coffee next to Tom and watching the back yard show. The green path into the woods has slowly been transformed to a carpet of gold and tan leaves. The day before, we spied moving shadows of brown and white as deer made their way through the trees. Two doe ventured down into our yard, taking their time to nibble at the rhododendrons, before sashaying back into their woods. One paused long enough for a photo.
Every year at this time I have a system of mental notches related to which month and which cancer diagnosis, treatment, surgery, or test result from 2010-2013. Autumns have been seasons with difficult hues and unwelcome changes. October 1, 2012 found us sitting in the oncologist’s office listening to the words, “Your cancer has returned.”
Hunting season. Healing season. The two are intertwined in my head.
On this morning ten years to the day later, I grabbed my usual hunting weapon of choice, a camera. Tom reminded me to put on an orange vest because it was the first day of bow season. I pulled the material over my sweatshirt, grabbed my sturdy stick, and started walking. The trusty wooden staff kept steady rhythm while I cleared my head. I was looking for color.
The previous weekend I visited my mom. We were talking about autumn and the outdoors. She said, “I do wonder what ever happened to your dad’s walking stick.”
The wooden staff had been gifted to my father years ago, chosen thoughtfully for him by one of my brothers and sister-in-law.
“I have dad’s walking stick,” I reminded mom. “You or he gave it to me when we moved into our home, I think, back in 2010.” The year of my first steps through cancer. “I use it every time I walk in the woods.”
Mom smiled. “Oooh that makes me so happy to know one of you kids has the walking stick, and that you use it. I’m so glad!”
Dad passed away in August 2012 shortly after his 80th birthday and just before my second cancer diagnosis in October 2012. I thought about him a lot after the conversation with mom. God entrusted dad with a musical gift that wound down through his family tree and branched deep into ours. Melody flowed freely from dad’s fingertips on a guitar. Maybe that was how he cleared his head and found the color.
On October 1, 2022, the forest was dressed richly in greens, greys, yellows, and orange. Black tree trunks. Brown branches. Clumps of red way up high where tree top foliage burned red with fiery brilliance on the way down to winter. Deer tracks in the dirt. Gratitude in my soul.
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your steady presence in my life, and for filling our world with your color.
My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.