In this, the third week enduring a polar vortex, I retreat from winter’s cruel bitter cold, which is a turn towards home, for body and spirit. I joyfully follow the open way to the inner mysteries that warm and sweeten one’s soul. A mind’s haunting howl is hushed when its wrapped in winter’s white shawl.
The one white that covers the landscape, inside and out, softens the pointy places that poke holes in my peace. Beneath the layers and layers of heavy cold and clothes, I search for something to raise my heart above the worries of this world. I feel the lightness of wonder watching the snowflakes sift and drift through the sky’s blue like dreams in a deep sound sleep.
I am blanketed in the warmth of winter’s prayer, to trust Creator will give me strength and endurance to face everything that hurts, everything that makes me turn away, everything that tries to blur the beauty of winter, even a polar vortex.
I’ve returned home from a long walk
in Winter’s night
along the woodland’s dark edge
a place where shadows play with one’s imagination
Peaceful scents of pine escape from emerald green needles
enclosed in the wind’s frosty breath
drifting past my rosy running nose
Every last whiff I sniff
Covered by a moonbeam cloak of sequins,
the mesmerizing landscape twinkles in
the mind’s wide open eye
Wakened from a whisper on the wind
forgotten promises remembered
surely Winter, with its pure white heart,
would not be unforgiving.
Clear and cold, attention starved thoughts
a constant companion
no turning back now
I follow where they go
down and deep
up and away
Winter nights walk stillness inward
where I hear silence speak
in a soft slow voice
of wonderful things
Feeling warm, cozy and comfortable
I turn towards home
I’ve returned to my heart
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!
Winter weans the weak.
Life’s circle goes unbroken.
Breath a living prayer.
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!
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
Small seeds of sweetness
Push through the hardness of life
Reluctantly, I turn up the edge of my wool hat, exposing an ear’s tender thin skin to the air’s frosty bite. I feel the white flesh turning pink then bright red as the sharp prickle travels down deeper and further into the ear tissue. I momentarily suspend my breathing as I firmly press the naked ear to the hive wall. Sealing out all the noise I can, hoping to funnel in the familiar soothing hum of the hive, hinting that winter’s wickedness hasn’t desecrated the hives holiness.
Early on in our beekeeping venture, these late-winter checks filled me with strong worry. Six years and four hives later, my faith and trust in our ability to keep bees alive over winter has grown, but with the abundance evil’s rising against the bee, I still rely heavily on God’s ear hearing the hum of my prayers.
One of the biggest contributors to a hive’s winter survival is having ample food stores. Bees create a substance in the hive known as beebread. The secret recipe is a mixture of honey, pollen and bee saliva. A process of fermentation breaks down the pollen’s protein which is indigestible in its natural state. Beebread is an invaluable high-energy food source.
Beebread is also known as “food of the Gods”. How appropriate! A bee’s life work is creating a space to unite the gifts of light with the gifts of darkness. They are Creator’s original light workers! Bees show us that when we bring our Spirit’s light into our soul’s darkness, we can make a honey of a life.
May you receive honey’s sweet sacrament. Take communion from the buds and blooms of Creator’s Divinity.
Blessed be thy bee.
Holy is thy hive.
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.