I was invited to go camping with some friends last weekend which was a total answer to prayer. Literally, I prayed for friends and to go camping and then my previous weekend plans fell through allowing me to take a 3.5 hour road trip into southern Ohio.
I guess I’ve never been to southern Ohio because I was completely awestruck by the beauty of the deep rolling hills, covered in a verdant lush grass and patched with golden trees, displaying every shade of fire, all under a denim blue sky filled with white towers of clouds. The roads snaked through the country side and as I turned one corner I happened upon a massive field of tents and the road lined with parked cars for a quarter of a mile. Here, a motley array of country folk wandered around a community “yard sale,” toting guns and wearing boots. I parked and allowed myself to be drawn into an independent exploration – to wander among people I would never know and look at old glass bottles and thermos that they were pawning off. Eventually, after buying a vintage pack of cards with the pocketful of change (all I had left after trading all my cash to the boy with a cigarette and tousled hair for a spot to park in a nearby field), I continued on my drive through a landscape made for car commercials.
Over more hills and dales. Through the crisp, fresh air that only seems to exist in autumn. Across a river glittering with the late afternoon sun and lined with large majestic trees. I made my turn onto one of the last side roads to find my self in a haven of monochromatic yellow trees. The hollow radiated, as if the sun had shrugged off a bit of its glow and left it to coat the fallen leaves – a tribute to the last dog days of summer and a reward for campers who loved the outdoors enough to stay after the heat of the pleasure of being barefoot and swimming had drained.
Still onward and slightly lost, I approached a lake that was perfectly reflecting the sky and full of lily pads, which had been exhausted and turned a crispy copper to match the lining of the clouds. Their skeletons and seed pods reaching up out of the water as if their souls were ready to go home. And I love autumn, when all of a sudden there is beauty in everything dying and falling apart. But this was not my final destination and after a minute parked there I continued on to the cabin where old friends and new friends were good company with hard cider, warm blankets and a bonfire.
The next morning I woke, surrounded by friends in sleeping bags, and peered out the window into a misty forest. The morning fog filling the woods allowed the brightest leaves to stand out without the competition of a background. I sat by the window with my friend Corey Ann and a french press of coffee and as the fog lifted the rest of our friends awoke and a breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs, biscuits and sausage ensued. Until like all campers we began our packing to head our separate ways into our city lives.
I drove back through one of the last warm days of autumn – residual heat left over as if the earth was pushing out just one last degree. And I drove with my face as close to the open window as I could to inhale the sweet and rustic smell of fallen leaves. The scent so strong I could have been wearing it as a perfume, as if my neighbor’s yards weren’t already.
All of this beauty and I wonder was everything green in the garden of Eden? It would have been such a shame. But I remember a friend on the camping trip telling me that in the fall the leaves are actually their true color before they wither and dry because the chlorophyll is drained out of them. They aren’t working anymore. And so maybe Eden was a constant state of autumn before the leaves drop – rest before the fall.
I am reminded that the Lord is a God of continued newness. That at every moment in Him, we are a new creation. We are evergreen in our transformation. He is a God of eternal sunrises into sunsets into sunrises. Though there is rest, there is no night. Now back from my weekend adventure, I want to lay awake at night and dream about this gorgeous radiant newness and fantasize about a new heaven and a new earth that is somehow more beautiful than the nature and community I just glimpsed.