A minute ago, a glance at the woods outside my window was clear and now tiny white specks are falling from the sky like powdered sugar shook through a sieve. All I see is covered in a dusting of tiny white specks. There is a soft sweetness that comes over me when I watch snowflakes that fall in straight and true lines from above.
The snow comes after a sharp cold snap. The bitter cold reminded me to appreciate the warmth in life. In words, deeds, the saffron orange flames lapping at the wood stove glass and snowflakes floating down like powdered sugar.
Below is an excerpt from the book I wrote, Sweet Wisdoms. The piece was written during a grueling period of below zero temperatures that stretched all living creatures to the limits of their breaking point.
Keep a warm heart in a cold world and you won’t become a bitter person.
Here in Wisconsin, it’s freeze-your-nose-hairs-together and turn-your-whiskers-frosty kind of weather. As I make my morning rounds of chores, I keep pulling my hat down and my long underwear up! You can feel the landscape’s bones on these sharp cold days. I delight in the simplicity of winter~ stay warm. Bitter cruel cold, you can’t make me a bitter cruel cold person!
Rainy fall Saturdays put me in the mood to bake. It’s the rest year for our apple orchard but hidden among the Wolf River and Cortland branches I managed to find a five-gallon pail full. Enough for a batch or two of applesauce and a family favorite, Apple Cinnamon Cake. I don’t know of anyone whose dull spirit isn’t polished to a shine when the scent of apple and cinnamon greets them at the door of home. Perfect choice for the mood my relative, Weather, is in.
While the apple cake was baking, I decided to string up the onions I had laid out on the dining room table to dry for a few days now. I hang the onion string in my kitchen. Easy access and I think they are pretty.
I struggled with tying them at first. But then I began to tie them like my prayer ties. A loop knot slipped over each dried tip. Each onion is now a prayer for our family; good health and well-being, peace, joy, laughter, abundance, good relationships. I’ll probably wonder which prayer the onion I’m using is and cry while I’m wondering. The purest form of prayer is crying.
As I stood back to admire the onion prayer tie’s prettiness a teaching came. I’m going to have to use whatever onion is at the end of the string. No picking through them. Just like life you have to take it as it comes. One onion at a time. Layer by layer.
through the night’s darkness
an icy mist fell
fog floats over the earth
like a grey phantom
nothing left untouched
dampness drips from the landscape’s heavy bones
a mystical mist
mother earth’s breath
trapped in the fallen sky
silently heaven’s soft kiss moves in
sunrise sweet lips
a gentle warmth reached
chill crumbles in the face of light
numbed emotions thaw
mysterious meanings revealed
I walk with my feelings
towards light’s waiting kiss
lost in the shadows
With good reason, many Wisconsinites are agonizing over the blast of Siberian like cold passing through the region. Temperatures with the wind chill plummeted to 50 below zero in parts of the state last night, creating exasperating problems in our daily existence. We have descended downward to temperatures that could surely freeze hell over.
Dressed in the wool of two sheep, I found myself sweating before I finished feeding and watering the horses. At times, being over-prepared can be no better than being under-prepared. Sweating was my body’s voice of common sense, telling me to restore the balance between the outside and inside climates. Taking two sheep’s worth of sweaty wool clothing off was more of a relief than the warmth that consoled me at the wood stove. Extreme cold weighs heavy on the mind and body. Clothing adjustments will be made, a last minute decision to throw on a pair of ski goggles— borderline genius.
I am grateful for the bitter cold’s wide opening to feel compassion’s inexhaustible warmth. Folks are filling bird feeders, checking on the elderly and helping each other, two-legged and four, survive the cold. Duchess my 23 years wise Pinto mare, insists on standing outside. Even though I’ve hung two heat lamps in the shelter and laid down a good two feet of shavings on the floor. I did blanket her, more for my comfort than hers. She spent most of the night standing in the shelter of spruce trees bordering the pasture; out of the wind, underneath the light of stars, in a good two feet of snow. Who am I to argue against 23 years of horse sense?
I am also thankful that the jet of glacial cold is forecast to leave the area tomorrow afternoon. By the weekend, meteorologists predict the temperature to be in the upper thirties. Mother Nature’s playground is the weather and she has two pieces of equipment in it, swings and teeter-totters.
I am walking in two winters, one outside and one inside. How well I can balance the climate changes in each has intense implications on my life. Winter invites us to explore the hidden closets old thoughts get hung up in and forgotten. Temperature fluctuations outside, mood swings inside, both create chaotic conversation within us. We become uncomfortable but they are necessary to “feel” what we’re wearing. Adaptability is fundamental to restoring balance in one’s life. It is the sheer definition of preparedness— for anything!
In the circle of seasons fall is a restless spirit. These deep months of autumn are one last raucous hurrah before the weather turns the somber corner towards winter’s reverent quiet. Radiant wild leaves that moments earlier burned the sky’s blue, float like embers from a forest aflame. The confetti-colored earth is a sign that winter’s wait is ending. Summer’s party is over.
Chilly north winds usher in a steady stream of grey clouds heavy with rain. For days the dampness soaks deep down into the bones of the land. An earthy scent lingers in the air like the perfumed smoke of incense. There is nothing like that smell to freshen ones state of mind. All it washes over is cleansed and purified for the coming journey inward to connect with self.
Seasonal transitions can be unsettling. They are raw elemental movement measurable in the mindfulness I keep on my mood. Nature is forcing us to face our feelings. In my way of thinking, her influence on our mind isn’t to bring our spirits down as much as it is for us to find ways to raise them up.
Each fall is unique. This year the rain has been persistent and significant. For the most part I’ve been able to keep a sunny disposition despite the seemingly endless string of gloomy grey days. Making monstrous kettles of homemade soup is a delicious way to shine a soul or two… or ten.
This fall taught me…
When you can’t hold the heaviness of dark clouds any longer let go of the rain.
My summer dream is here! The air is heavy with heat, the sun high and still. Endless ribbons of golden light flow through the cloudless sky. In the garden, the green promise of this season’s abundance dangles from every vine and stem. An early morning surprise greeted me in the blueberry patch. I popped the plumb blue nuggets in my mouth, bursting the sweet pleasure between my tongue and cheek. Maybe tomorrow a few will make it beyond the patch boundaries to the house—maybe.
Having the first crop of hay tucked away in a quiet corner of the shed is the crowning achievement of my hot weather farm duties. Summer’s green fills the pockets of my heart with gratitude and contentment. It’s a priceless feeling of freedom, knowing you have enough.
This time of sun feeds more than the body. I’ll stow away the memories of these soft days to warm my spirit when the landscape turns hard and cold. Summer unfolds life before us, constantly and gracefully, each day a birth of possibility. The dream she has for us is to release our unlimited potential and prosper. May summer’s dream awaken and grow within you.
Here in Northeast Wisconsin, warmer weather is arriving painfully slow. Spring makes an appearance then disappears, taking her green magic with her. This time of year we experience what I call Old Man Winter’s dark white. The extended transition time weighs heavy on the spirit of many folks. As each dark white day passes, the anticipation of spring grows green in our hearts. We know spring will come but we worry about how long it’s taking to get here. It’s precisely this “knowing” that stirs up the crazy in people.
I watched a pair of robin’s, hopping through the snow, stopping occasionally on a grassy patch to cock their heads sideways and listen for worms. Later, they were bouncing through the branches of our crab apple tree gobbling down shriveled up fruit from last season. They don’t “know” when or where their next meal will come from, yet they survive on the unknown, living life in complete acceptance of what is.
Weather, a master at teaching non-judgment and surrender, gives us daily lessons on how to release control and follow the flow. The robin’s made it look easy. Following the flow is all about the awareness of whether you are flailing or floating through this fleeting moment. To arrive at this place of complete surrender, give up the narrow mindedness of knowing and widen your mindfulness of the unknown—explore the great unknowns.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”~ Mark Twain