#15 ~ the winter within
the winter within … or … the musings of one fortunate in this uncertain world.
This is the winter that isn’t. Here, where Paul and I – and the Reverend and Tempest and the rest of the clan – live in Northern California we’ve had a grand total of about 5 ‘storms’. As of late January, the lack of winter left us with an historic failing – almost immeasurable rain totals and feeble findings as regards the northern Sierra Mountains’ snowpack. As in – No Snow! That lack has since been supplemented a bit by Mother Nature, the weather Gods – or by HAARP, depending upon how one sees the world – bringing a few more cold and wet storms upon us, but still, I feel as though I’ve missed out on my annual hibernation.
Winter pulls me within, deep within myself … I don’t do well at all with the lack of sun, or with her icy blasts of wind, or with the need of the mountains of clothing I must wear each day simply to trundle off to the barn to care for the horses through those months … but the quickening darkness and the inclement weather are good for making me want to dive deep inside, deep into heart and soul and multifaceted thought for a long and soulful winter’s rest. Winter is good time to heal, to rest, curl by the fire with a good book and a glass of good wine, cat on lap and a dog at my side … work new songs, play catch up on life itself but mostly, it’s a good time to delve within for words that have been incubating there throughput the busier months. To hibernate, like the bear, laying on the layers of soul nutrition, that juicy, creative fat that can then be divvied out as the year moves forward.
While the shorter days certainly came upon us, and thick ice had to be broken from the horses’ troughs for 35 mornings in a row, the winter’s wildness and respite did not come. It is hard to go cozy, sink into the warmth and away from the winter’s chill to do some navel gazing when the skies are bright blue and days blaze a sunny 70˚. The iris’ came to surface 2 months early, at the same time the bees that live in our neighbors old oak ‘bee tree’ started being buzzily active; the neighborhood peepers and bigger frogs began tuning up their respective symphonies … the squirrels never stopped their forage and nor did the horses – the last autumn’s huge fall of acorns never got softened and rendered unpalatable by winter rains. They remained crunchy and even now in March, impossible for the horses to resist, (Unsettling, if only because too much acorn can founder or colic a horse, or lay on far too much weight.) Tempest, an older lady by horse standards, remained ever the hussy with none of the usual winters’ diminishing of her ‘lady season’. She has been unrelenting in her attempts to beguile the poor, unassuming old thoroughbred neighbor-gelding over the back fence with her squeals of lust and even stranger mare behaviors … The old goat Posy is in some twilight zone of diminishing hormone, and rather than her newly acquired devil-goat behavior mellowing with the onset of winter, she has kept up her ‘blubbering’, following every human, dog and horse she meets with wide, horizontally-pupiled eyes a’blaze, her waggling tongue protruding 2 inches from her gummy, half toothed mouth as she snorts and growls and aims for any face or crotch within her reach (you have to see it to believe it.) ….
The Shetland pony, Molly, began shedding her long full Siberian pony-like winter coat even before any winter had come upon us! The timing of her shedding is normal, as horses will begin to shed their winter hair to some degree with the passing of the winter solstice. They are governed by the light, the shortening of days after summer solstice telling them turn on their ‘grow the coat’ DNA – the return of the light with the winter solstice telling them that they had best get busy losing that hair, for the summer will come. But long before the good nesting materials became abundant (the short twigs that come with the winter windfall; the long, tough black and white pony hairs and the soft-as-silk and shorter, red Tempest hairs), blue birds and wrens began searching for suitable apartments; the Fuji trees went into bud in early February and then froze to a crisp; and as the sun shined cheerily and relentlessly, like the early flowers, I turned towards the sun. There wasn’t the dark to welcome me. Where was winter?
I had to find it somehow … that quiet, darkening peace. I knew it was out there, despite the hue and cry of doom all around me. So I devoted my evening walks with Djuna to finding the winter within the winter that wasn’t.
And there it was – in the Canadians and the silly ducks skating on the neighbors’ pond, frozen solid for days with the month long sunny-but-icy blast that came to us early in the year; in the bird tree, the great, season-stripped naked Oak deemed to harbor the winter’s evening bird conventions – birds, mostly European Starlings filling it with a cacophony of song, the hue and cry perhaps just the birds seeking consensus about where the best seeds could be harvested or cold season berries found, or where the best neighborhood birdfeeders filled with goods devoted to the nuthatch, towhee, oriole and finch could be raided – the birds packing into the old, gnarled branches so that the tree looked as though gloriously decorated with audible ornaments ….
… And the sunsets … our winter sunsets rival the best, anywhere. Every night, a new offering – like my endless sea. The distant horizon a place to rest eyes tired of seeing too much, and all that is between here and there, a colorful balm to sooth the soul.
The winter fog even blessed us a few times on our walk, leaving only the ghosts of oaks in our pastoral paradise, covering everything with the winter quiet, a blanket of peace – like going within, where only the essential can be heard …
Paul and I recently spent 2 weeks performing music and seeking alligator, Ibis and spanish moss through the state of Florida, which also seemed curiously turned upside down. There is a drought there as well. The hanging bits of moss were brown and crisp. Usually in winter it flows from the oaks like greening silk, and the wee orchids that live off of the oak bark are brought to life with the rains.
But everything was dry and seemed caught in the stillness that comes from life going dormant in order to survive. On an off day we journied to a northern Florida beach. We had to sit by the water, breathe in the salt air. Walking a long, wooden path we eventually emerged from dry forest to turn towards the sea … and were met suddenly by the most remarkable winter tableau.
The day was 65˚ – but fog was hugging the shore like a frozen veil and the ghostly rolling sand dunes, stark and white, looked as though they’d been dusted with an otherworldly snow. Here was a vision of our missing winter.
Now it is time to reawaken. The trees will survive our drought. What flowers and forage cannot replenish enough to be reborn this spring will come again in another, given the blessings of the rains. Despite her likely disappointment in us human parasites, Mother will always grace us with the good and the beauty, no matter what. While the sandhill cranes and the snow geese begin their long trek north, we will begin our long trek back to hope – the songbirds will still nest and fledge, the horses’ dappled coats will glisten in the summer sun. We will still create, we will still love, we will still grow and draw our sustenance from the parched soil. Rebirth. Life will continue.
Here and now I extract what is known from what is not, find custom in the unexpected (these words, for a start), and will get busy looking up, working in word and song, looking forward to a journey to my sacred place in the Aegean sea, get my body and heart and mind summer ready though they’ve had little rest or respite. With much gratitude, I recognize that I am fortunate in this life, winter or not … I have stayed warm, haven’t been without shelter, or food – or hope – so, blessed with abundance that I do not take for granted, it is time to face the past and move into the future. Being Now.
So I am working on my 2nd novel. It, too, is set mostly on a Greek isle and also will be advocacy for all of the animals, but most specifically for the American Pit Bull Terrier … a tale that will illustrate how it is that the creatures of this beautiful earth can draw us humans out from a stifling darkness and into becoming all that we can be.
As I try to figure out how to market my 1st novel, All The Little Graces (don’t forget, it is an eBook – go to it’s page here on the blog for links to where it can be found online!) I also wriggle like a child who is done with the winter and needs to be out in the sun and air rather than sitting in a seat at school – so full with this new life growing within, the words that seem to multiply by the moment. They are alive. I look forward to being able to devote myself to making the perfectly opulent, colorful, comfortable yet challenging bed upon which those words may land. I’ll be tracking the life of those words here on these pages, winter or not …
I will embrace the spring in its perfection. It is there, no matter what. That is a given, something we all can trust. Let’s keep looking up …