Turning of Days: Lessons from Nature, Season, and Spirit
February 2021 • Paperback • 978-0-8024-1856-2
Return to creation. Encounter the Creator.
From the beginning, Scripture tells of a God who created the heavens and earth. It tells how he made the sea and land, the rosebud and beetle. But what might the heavens and earth tell us were we to listen to them? What wonders might the birds and flowers share? What might we discover of order, chaos, beauty, and unabashed grace?
Turning of Days beckons you to a world of tree frogs and peach blossoms, mountain springs and dark winter nights – all in search of nature’s God. All in harmony with Scripture. Join Hannah Anderson, the author of Humble Roots, as she journeys through the four seasons searching out the spiritual and theological truths woven deep within the natural world. This collection of devotional essays and illustrations will feed your soul, guiding you into a life of observation and awe, a life that sees His glory everywhere.
Turning of Days brings reminders that will both inspire and comfort you. You’ll be reminded of God’s faithfulness through His Word, displayed in nature.
– Ruth Chou Simons
Founder of gracelaced.com; bestselling author of GraceLaced and Beholding and Becoming; coauthor of Foundations
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hannah R. Anderson lives in the haunting Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She spends her days working beside her husband in rural ministry, caring for their three children, and scratching out odd moments to write. In those in-between moments, she contributes to a variety of Christian publications and is the author if Made for More (Moody, 2014), Humble Roots (Moody, 2016), and All That’s Good (Moody, 2018). You can connect with her at her blog sometimesalight.com and on Twitter @sometimesalight.
I walked in the woods today, and it made me wonder why I walk anywhere else. It’s not quite spring, but spring is coming. I know it; the birds know it; the trees know it; and the small sprigs of green sprouting between the leaves on the forest floor know it. But spring is not here yet.
It’s late February. The air is cool, and a thick cloud cover lends the river a celadon hue. It’s a sickly color that doesn’t reflect tree or sky or human face as rivers should and is, instead, wholly absorbed in itself, flowing confidently as it gathers raindrops to carry downstream. When I left the house, it was not raining, but by the time I hit the path, I had turned up my collar and thrust my hands into my pockets. It’s hard to walk this way, hunched over and closed in on yourself. Let me restate that: It’s not hard to walk this way—my legs and feet work just fine and tramp easily along the path by the river—but it is hard to see this way. It is hard to see what you’re supposed to see. It’s hard to see what the world is meant to teach you when you’re balled up into yourself and all your attention is given to resisting the elements.
But then the rain stops. The clouds don’t quite lift, but the rain stops. I relax my shoulders and lift my eyes. I look. I listen. I see.
To my right, a pair of white-breasted nuthatches perch in a thicket. One is screaming to the other: “Fly! Fly! A stranger is coming. Fly! Fly! A stranger is here!”
But I’m no stranger. Not really. Still, I know they’ll only find peace in my absence, so I continue down the trail to where it cuts away from the river about fifty yards on. Here, I’m hidden from the birds who sit in the branches that hang over the swollen water. I stop and lower myself onto my haunches and disappear even further in the brush. Maybe if I’m quiet, I can see without being seen.
And so I stay there, stretched on my quadriceps for five, ten, fifteen minutes, my eyes and ears waiting. I see a flash of color and hear the whir of a cardinal’s flight. I listen to the steady beat of a woodpecker and see her downy head drum, drum, drumming against a branch. There’s a rustle to my left. I turn, but I’m not quick enough and just barely see a chipmunk’s rump, striped and round. But I see it.
Congratulating myself, I walk on until I can see daffodils blooming where a house once stood. There’s a rock wall across the way and a row of stones lined up straight. A tree grows up through the middle of them. Then, as if the woods need me to know that my own kind thrived here too, a man with a brush mustache and two small dogs emerges on the trail. He stops, and I kneel again, this time to a chorus of yips and yelps that welcome me as a friend. He tells me that he used to swim in the river and knows its fish. He points to a small island in the green water and tells me of a tree that grew there once but doesn’t now.
We say goodbye and to be safe, I trade the trail along the river for one that veers straight up the hillside deeper into the woods. The leaves lie thick on the path an don’t crunch when I walk on them because they are varnished with rain. I worry for a moment that I’ll slip and tumble down the hillside. The hills become dangerous when they’re wet: water and inclined planes being no friends. I see mature trees lying on their sides, a hundred and a hundred-and-fifty feet long, their ends turned up in spiraling clumps of mud, rock, and root. They’ve been brought down by the rain and sodden ground. Drip by drip, drop by drop, the water pulled away and reshaped the landscape that sustained them until a passing wind or coat of ice toppled the mightiest.
Roots or no roots, they lie flat on the ground, humbled for their journey back to the soil. They become shelter for salamanders and snails and food for beetles and termites. Their bark crumbles and falls off. Fungus grows: red, golden, shelf-life, and magnificent.
All because of the rain that rolls down like justice, reshaping and reforming the land and everything in its path. So I worry about water and slick leaves because water is a powerful thing, but ultimately, my worry is pointless. I do not slip. I do not fall on the path and even find a way to navigate the trees that did. One day, someone will come with a chainsaw and oil can and clear the trail, but today I’ll find my own way.
The trees that do stand are still bare, their limbs so many bones. In any other season, they’d be clothed in leaves, their nakedness covered like that of the first man and woman. But like them, these leaves were also sure to fall. So here, on this almost-spring-not-yet-spring morning, I can only know the trees by their fruit. I see the pine cones and the spiked balls of the sycamore still clinging to the highest branches. The black walnuts—whose husks stained my grandmother’s hands as she gathered them—lie on the ground in front of me. For a moment, I’m tempted to pick one up and carry it home in my empty pocket; but not willing to get my hands dirty, I don’t.
Too soon, my path circles back to the river, but as quickly as I emerge, I stop. Large clumps of hair and pink flesh litter the trail in front of me. The hair is long, coarse, white, and brown—the hair of a white-tailed deer. I look more closely and see that the blood and violence continues down to the river’s edge, but there’s no carcass to be seen and no other clues to explain what has happened. And yet, something has happened here. Something I may never know or understand. Something deep and unassailable.
My mind whirls with all it knows and all it doesn’t. There are mysteries in this world, not just of science but of conscience. Mysteries of unity and continuity, of both wonder and groaning, of creating awaiting redemption. What might I observe were I to crouch down low and turn my eyes and tune my ears? What might I discover of pain and low, of beauty and truth? What might I find were I to drop my shoulders, lift my head, and keep watch in this world? What might I learn if I asked the earth to teach me?
Turning of Days delights, mesmerizes, and intoxicates. With gorgeous prose and rich insight, Anderson calls us to radically notice the world around us so that, in Anne Dillard’s words, “creation need not play to an empty house.” This is a rare book, full of truth and beauty, that gave me new eyes to see the world around me with all its complex revelations and luminous wisdom.
– Tish Harrison Warren
Anglican priest and author of Liturgy of the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night
As soon as I finished reading Turning of Days, I went back to start reading it again. There is an abundance of searching, patient wisdom here, drawn from things we always see but rarely notice, and written in beautiful prose. Read, and enjoy.
– Andrew Wilson
Teaching Pastor, King’s Church London
Hannah Anderson’s meditations in Turning of Days capture my heart at the core. It is like a walk in the woods with the Scriptures. Her words come to life on the pages, enhanced further by the natural images. It is like a flashing yellow-light invitation to slow down and drink deep of God’s goodness right here in this wild world He has made. Turning of Days is a worthy celebration of beauty that comes at just the right time.
– Sandra McCracken
Singer and songwriter, Patient Kingdom