My West Virginia Morning: Beautiful Ash

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When I awaken, the sky is gray. The moon sits like a great, fat sickle and mocks its ashen bed. But there is a time when the light arrives with amber hue, falls over all the eye can see and colors it the glow of honey. I sit on the couch and wait, glancing through the window periodically, vigilant. I don’t want to miss the magic moments.

This morning, the thermometer reads nine degrees when the sun touches the tip of the maple in the back yard. I have been reading, doing my Bible study like a good girl when luminance whispers outside. I grab the camera and slip on my clogs—the ones my good friend called my “clown-training shoes.” One insole is missing because Bonnie has taken a shine to dissecting all our shoes. She watches me through the window.

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I walk amidst luster, grass crunching under my feet. The squirrel baffle on my feeder sports a sheen of glitter; it catches the sun and tosses her back to me in splintered light. The sky suddenly gives up her gray, makes room for the deepening blue. And I am smitten by the naked branches silhouetted against such a lovely backdrop.

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My Bible sits open on the couch inside, but isn’t this a study of all things holy too?

Last night, we met at the church and prayed around the fireplace in the parlor. My pastor took last year’s palms from Palm Sunday and we watched as they turned to ash over the fire. Next week we will wear ashes, remind each other and ourselves that we are made of dust. As I look up into the blue, I remember that ash is what is left when the fire is put out—it is the remnant that will not burn.

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I think about the fires we have been through this past year, the choking burn of so much refining. Last night, as we stoked the wood that made the flame that burned the palms, one of the elders noted the difference in color of the ashes. The wood ash was dark and black, but the palms were burning into a soft gray—almost white.

This life is in need of constant refining, transforming through the smoldering fires. But Beauty has her own kind of fire too. And I wonder if we watched her more—would there be less in need of burning away? For nature makes her own chaff and leaves behind the remnants of millions of years of shaping and remaking.

I stand in this light of the ages and let sun-fire make me new this morning. And this is beautiful ash, pure and fine, that floats before me.

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