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Winter Walks

Back in December 2019 I shared a reflection about the birds singing because spring is coming. You can read it here. At the time I was walking along the Leeds-Liverpool canal for several hours a day. Having just experienced a huge grief and facing a future that was very unknown all I could do each day as my husband went to work was go out and walk. I had a very set route and I would put my head down, avoid eye contact with anyone else and walk. Sometimes I would listen to music but more often than not I would listen to the birds, the water splashing down the canal overflows and the occasional train going past.

Jump forward a few years and life is very different. I no longer live in walking distance of the Leeds-Liverpool canal. I still walk most days but now its pushing a buggy with a sleeping baby, I still notice the birds singing but this year the thing that has struck me most during my winter walks is the colours.

Spring is full of new life, fresh green shoots and those early flowers and blossoms that flow into the full deep green of Summer with its fruit and flowers and explosion of growth that can be difficult to keep up with. Autumn sees all the growth of the summer change into spectacular shades of yellow, red and brown. Leaves turn and flutter to the ground trees cast of their lush foliage and get ready for the deep slumber of winter. The explosion of green that filled every conceivable space dies back and becomes twiggy and dead-looking. Winter is characteristically lifeless. Animals hibernate, trees look gaunt and barren, there appears to be no growth, even the ground stiffens with frost and apart from the occasional covering of pristine white snow everything becomes a deep muddy brown. Or so I thought.

As I have walked this winter I have noticed more colour, and a depth to that colour, than ever before. The pond I often walk round has, at times, looked like it is on fire as the late afternoon sun has hit the yellow leaves of Autumn. But the reason it looks so spectacular is because there is a deep green backdrop of evergreen yew trees. Without that depth of colour, the yellow wouldn’t be such a contrast. I have spotted deep green holly leaves, like crowns, a constant presence in the hedgerow of dying summer undergrowth.

In amongst the green is the occasional glint of red as the berries shine though, as yet untouched by birds. On the twiggy thorny undergrowth the rose-hips and bryony berries glitter like jewels against a backdrop of shrubby undergrowth. Ivy berries explode like tiny fireworks against soggy tree trunks.

The droplets of water gathering on the pine needles like crystals in a chandelier giving tiny little glints of light a sparkle. On the bare twigs and branches flashes of yellow and lime green are revealed as lichen and moss grow, catkins forming on young hazel promise life is no all gone. Even the flash of red from a robin darting along the path next to me as I walk.

All these colours could go unnoticed because winter is so dull. On the second of January we went for a walk and saw the most amazing double rainbow to remind us that not all shows of colour are subtle!

Seeing God in creation always amazes me. This Winter my days have been brightened by these little flashes of colour in what can sometimes feel like one long grey day. I have been able to reflect on the fact that the evergreen leaves are like God. Constant and unchanging. The seasons shift but holly is always holly. Yew is always deep green and lichen grows even if it is hidden by other leaves all Summer. God is always God. He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loyal love. He is the flicker of colour in what can feel like a dark and dying world. And through him, we too, can be flickers of colour for those around us who may be feeling swamped by the fog. Who knows…maybe he wants you to be as ostentatious as a rainbow!!

Brightness everywhere! 
The way a rainbow springs out of the sky on a rainy day
—that’s what it was like.
It turned out to be the Glory of God!
Ezekiel 1:28a‬ ‭MSG

Everything in Colour
The world comes alive
You have opened my eyes
Everything I see is in colour
No more black and white
Because I’ve seen the light
Everything I see is in colour
My life is coloured by Your love
Full of patience
Full of kindness enough
The sorrows of my yesterday
Are forgotten with joyful sounds of praise

©️ Ben Cantalon, 2012

LISTEN to ‘Everything in Colour’

Rachel is an Inspire Missioner based in Chesterfield. Since the bird song reflection in 2019 she and her husband have radically followed God’s lead. They now live by faith and give all their time to Inspire, and their 18 month old daughter Zoe. To see more of their journey with Inspire click here.

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