They came before the sunbeams pierced the darkness. Two sets of heart-shaped foot prints lead to, around and then away from the small hills of corn I placed at the woodland’s edge, an offering to the wild things to gather strength and sustenance during an extended period of subzero temperatures. No remnants of the corn’s golden shell remain. To see my small hills of goodwill consumed fills my heart with joy.
From the size of the tracks, I decide it’s a doe and her off-spring from last year. Others have come, too; a rabbit, a field mouse, and several crows but it’s the deer tracks that take hold of my imagination. It’s safe for me to assume the doe is eating for two or three. The burden of nourishing the new life in her womb and her own life is greatest at this time of year. The shrubs and forages they have been eating over the long winter are depleted and spring growth hasn’t begun. It’s truly a time of life or death for some in the herd.
Soon her instincts will cause her to drive off the yearling. She does this to focus all her energy on raising this year’s vulnerable fawn(s). The yearling’s old life will come to an abrupt end. I’ll probably see it wandering around the fields looking lost and confused for a few weeks. Independence will come at a high price for some, crossing roads safely is a skill taught by experience. Others will adapt well to this time of transition, venturing out into a new way of living without hesitation, being an example of gentle strength and resiliency for all of us.
The thoughts of the big changes ahead for the yearling stayed with me as I walked on. The enduring trust the doe placed in her instincts is indomitable. She has clear knowledge that it is a lesson she can’t teach her yearling. Trusting its instincts is something the yearling can only learn by being driven off to live a new way. Nature reminds me of life’s continual cycle of renewal. Harsh as that may be at times, life never gets old.
As the years pass, I am beginning to understand that life doesn’t grow old. I do. And if the aliveness in this old life dies away, I will find a new way to live alive.
Note: The photo in the featured image is of an unusually friendly yearling that seemed to find comfort hanging out in our yard and around the horses last summer.
As suddenly as it began, the mesmerizing winter scene before my eyes ends. Without warning, a flurry of fluffy snowflakes descends from a lone grey cloud hanging in a motionless sky. Delicate snowflakes by the thousands gracefully float through the air like tiny parachutes. Their journey, guided by the forces of nature, has brought them to rest over everything in the landscape.
Having surrendered to the wind’s whim, some have come to rest on my outstretched hand. As I watched each disappear into my skin, I thought about their journey. How the close of one passage through this world opens up infinite passages to enter the next way through. The snowflake now, along with me, continues on in another form from seen to unseen. Awareness— being the sacred observer of life— gives us a way to join our external and internal journeys. In those passing moments we feel complete.
These poignant encounters with nature are moments our awareness can inspire us to plug into that source energy. Source energy is never not connecting with us. Allow your attention to be captured by the power of enchantment. Start now. We are only here in passing.
As suddenly as it ends, it begins again.
Conversation on the pre-school van I drive:
Little Boy: “Bus driver, did you know that Santa works for God”?
Me: “No, I didn’t”.
Little Boy: “He does! Mom says so. It’s because God watches over us…everyone…EVERYTHING…ALL THE TIME! Not just at Christmas like Santa”.
Me: “Isn’t Santa supposed to watch you all year long to know if you’ve been bad or good?”
Little Boy: “Yea, but Santa just watches you, not everything. God knows what you’re really feeling too”.
Me: “I guess you could say God created the business (life) …lol… so that would make him the boss in a way.”
I thought this part of our conversation was kind of funny. Since one of the first things that pops out of their four-year-old mouths when another little rider tells them to do something is, “You’re not the boss of me!”
Then the wisdom is revealed.
Little Boy: “Did you know when you’re sad you can go inside your head and talk to him. God, I mean. Not Santa. It makes you feel better”.
Me: “I do and it makes me really happy to know that you do too”.
As I write this I can’t help but relive the feeling that flushed through me when he spoke his words. I wish you could have felt the feeling in his words, heard the inflection in his voice and the way his speech softened and slowed. You just knew the conversations were heart to heart.
Soon nature will outfit my horses—Chief Lakota, Duchess and Jazz — with heavy, thick winter coats. During the winter I affectionately nickname them, Fluffy, Puffy and Stuffy, respectfully, of course. Jazz, my mini-Appaloosa, could actually keep his winter nickname all year long. It describes his soft, round physique perfectly! The biggest reason I overlook his aptitude to find mischief is his charming resemblance to a child’s plush stuffed animal. Jazz is stuffed with cuteness!
The change in my horses’ coats is slight at first. It comes one hair at a time, thickening and rising as daylight hours dwindle and the mercury slides further down the thermometer. Slow, gentle change from the inside out is a gift we, whether human being or animal, give ourselves.
Winter’s thick heavy thoughts are right around the corner, too. Like trapped air between hair strands, we insulate ourselves from cold, bitter experiences, their shiver inescapable in the wintry season of introspection. The winter of the mind exposes raw hurt feelings. Their pain can no longer be protected under a blanket of fear. Self -reflection bares our souls; the naked soul is truth’s mirror.
Come spring, the harshness of winter sheds. If we are willing to see ourselves clearly … work through all the stuff and fluff… we will enter the soul’s summer sleek and shiny.
When we open the hurt, the wounds close.
Let us feast on gratitude on this happy day of giving thanks!
“If the only prayer we ever say in our lives is “Thank you,” that will be enough.”
~ Meister Eckhart
For a very long time, the sight of this Oak tree draped sadness over my heart. Later, anger for the person(s) that long ago forgot the heavy chain wrapped around its trunk. The tree was a solid anchor for the chain length stretched across the driveway, keeping unwelcome trespassers from easy access to the fertile hunting land. Nailed midway up into the tree’s trunk, a sign hung with the words, “KEEP OUT”. The unforgiving rusty chain had tightened around the majestic Oak’s trunk. So merciless was its choke-hold that the chain, barely visible in some areas, had become embedded in the bark. I imagined a slow painful torture, the chain and tree no longer separated from each other. How like life, I thought. We all have things we can’t free ourselves from but they don’t have to keep us from growing.
I knew the reality of the situation. No longer could the Oak tree free itself from the embedded chain. Doing so would kill the tree. The bark is what transports the water and nutrients through the tree. If the circumference of the tree trunk is bare of its bark, the tree dies, unable to transport nutrients and pass water through the wounded area.
When a growing tree encounters something in its way, the tree has two choices. Grow away or grow around. There may be a slowing but there is no stopping a growing tree. The choked Oak is a testament to that. In time, the Oak will entirely consume the chain, a graceful melding of acceptance over restriction. Hidden beneath the bark, the Oak’s unseen wound will give no indication that there was ever anything that tried to stop it from reaching its full potential
People put their own mental and emotional chains across the paths to their unlimited potential, anchored deep in the unforgiving restrictions of a closed mind or closed heart. Simply choose a direction to grow and you will create an opening for the mind and heart to expand. Don’t let a chain of regret choke your dreams.