Subtle Signs of God
Changes in the seasons on California’s Central Coast are marked by subtle signs, especially near the ocean. The climate is classified as “Mediterranean,” meaning there’s a wet season and a dry season. There are some temperature variations between the two seasons, but the presence of the ocean tends to moderate the amount of change. A really hot summer day records temperatures in the 80s. A really cold winter day may have lows near freezing. But, generally, the temperatures are not extreme.
As the terms “wet” and “dry” imply, the biggest variable is the probability of measurable rainfall. Rain is scarce from late April to mid-October, sometimes even later. With the first major rainfall, children and even some adults are seen outside “dancing” for joy, twirling around with their hands raised over their heads, enjoying the freshness of the rain.
When I first arrived in California over 30 years ago, I often missed the signs of the seasonal changes. The changing color of the poison oak leaves was not at all as obvious to me as the changing color of the leaves of the maple and oak trees at home in Eastern Washington had been. The return of green grasses on the hills and fields by December didn’t signal the arrival of Advent and Christmas for me as they do now.
There are many other examples, but I won’t bore you with them here. Suffice it to say that I’ve become more aware of subtlety over the years.
A couple of days ago, I saw one of those subtle signs of transition while out walking near my home. The Monarch butterflies are returning. They come every year about this time to the eucalyptus groves near my home and stay until mid-March, the start of spring.
On sunny winter days, they flutter all over the neighborhood, sampling the nectar of winter blooming flowers and weeds. On cold, stormy winter days, as waves crash thunderously on the nearby beaches, they huddle together for warmth on the branches of the eucalyptus and cypress trees. They are beautiful.
Seeing the butterflies and the other subtle signs of the changing seasons here reminds me of the way God often works in our lives, very subtly, but with occasional flashes of brilliant beauty. Over time and through the seasons, we, like the butterflies, grow to be signs of His grace and presence in our world.