Thursday, December 25, 2014

Steeped in nature and nurture, not religion

I believe in God, 
only I spell it Nature.
-Frank Lloyd Wright

Almost at the end of my Christmas ride

I may not bow down to a god, but I will bow down to a tree.  I may not celebrate the birth of Jesus, but I do celebrate the birth of a baby goat.  I may not sit in a pew and surround myself with the four walls of a church, but I will surround myself with farms, forests and rivers on two wheels or two feet.

It's Christmas evening, and over the many years of  choosing not to attend church, I have come to the realization of what this day means for me.  First, it means having a day off from work to spend with friends and sometimes relatives.  Second, it means time, the most precious gift of all, to spend being outside no matter what the conditions are.  Lastly, it means stuffing myself silly with good food and drink, followed by more bouts of outdoor activity just to make room for another round.

My destination for so many rides
Yesterday, under the heavy blanket of clouds which were spitting rain, snow and sleet, I rode out to a friend's farm roughly 25 miles from Madison.  This farm is heaven to me.  A place I ride to throughout the spring and summer to visit the farm animals--especially the goats.  I had never ridden out in the winter, but since I had also never driven, it seemed like a terrible time to start.  Upon rolling into the farm, I was greeted by one of the owners, noticing my safety yellow jacket I'm assuming, "Kierstin!" A barn tour was well on its way, as well as feeding the animals, and there was no way I was going to miss it.  So in I went, still in my riding clothes/shoes, smiling ear to ear and happy to have the grandkids leading me around.  

With dogs, cats, and chickens at my feet, I meandered around the large timbers until coming to my favorite place on earth--the kid pen.  These "oops", now 12 weeks old and named William and Shakespeare, were all too excited to be fed and given attention.  If given the chance, I would have spent the night in that pen, bed down in a pile of hay--I'm guessing with the company of the grandchildren as well.

William and Shakespeare during feeding time

William the goat

Once the chickens, adult goats, horses and sheep were fed, it was time to head inside.  The bite of the damp cold made it that much warmer to be in with loving friends and a gourmet spread.  Last night will now be burned in my memory as one of the many things, not retail or church related, that Christmas is truly about.

Today, I took the day off the bike and my husband and I opted to use our legs in an upright fashion instead. We ventured out to our favorite hike, the Ice Age trail at Devil's Lake, and quickly found ourselves scouring the forest floor, noticing all the different moss, lichen and fungi.  It is at times like this I believe in something so much bigger than myself.  Something which connects us all, and creates art more beautiful than any museum could contain.  I am one or two steps away from being fungi and moss myself--and it's grand to see what I may become in 50 or hopefully 60 years.

Devil's Lake

We came home a bit sore, tired and hungry, but within a few short hours, all of that was swept away by the kindness of our neighbors who take us in like we're starving little strays each Christmas.  I remember growing up spending each Christmas with a Ukrainian family. They would always set the table with one or two extra place settings in case anyone stopped by.  I feel our neighbors have been doing just this for about eight years.  We now consider them family and we all share a similar fondness for the outdoors and its role in our lives.

I'm not sure what it would be like if we spent this day/eve in a church or in an airport each year.  All I know is I'm more than satisfied with our yearly ritual, and dare I say connected to some/a god/greater being by our yearly practice.  Happy baby Jesus/ Krampus/Santa/bike/hike/fungi/woodsy/friend/family/foodie day all!

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