Promises to keep

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The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

–Robert Frost in “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

Cattle behind the house watching me watching them

As snow fell across central and north Georgia on Christmas Day, weathermen told us this was Atlanta’s first white Christmas in over a century. In contrast with northern states where snow, salted roads and blizzards occur multiple times during the winter, Georgia snow is a big deal. Our one-to-six-inch snowfall (depending on where you were) caught the attention of local TV stations and the Weather Channel for many hours.

My wife and I were spending Christmas with her father on his farm in NW Georgia. The quiet of an evening of wood smoke and moonlight carried a hint of magic, a reminder, perhaps, of the way we felt during the best of our Christmas eves and Christmas mornings as children.

In the cycle of changing seasons, we often say that the period between the Winter Solstice and Ground Hog Day is not only the best time for planting trees, but the best time for planting figurative seeds. Our plans, goals and intentions germinate in the safe darkness of the soil beneath a fine winter snow, awaiting the sunny days when first shoots will appear, followed by leaves. The enchantment of a cold winter night in a snowy field or along the fence line margin where the world of cows ends and the dark of the woods begins, it’s easier to see one’s hopes for the future more clearly. The smoke from the chimney carries them into the heavens like prayers.

While New Year’s resolutions, at whatever level of seriousness we make them, present our public face, promises made in the quiet of the woods on a snowy evening represent our most sacred intentions. These are the promises that matter. They define who we are, why we are here, and the very best of our goals for the future.

Made in secret, they are the easiest promises to break for we suffer no public shame in failing to accomplish what nobody knew we planned to accomplish.

Made in secret, these promises are the best ones to keep. They are promises to ourselves that touch the soul. Yes, “the woods are lovely, dark and deep,” but there is work to be done, the most sacred of all work.

For now, the woods must wait.

Malcolm

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