#21 ~ the winter that wasn’t
Rose colored mornings, magenta sunsets … all so typical of a northern California winter sky – but really, not day after day after day.
I find myself yearning a bit for the ravages of winter. Winter, with its bone damp and cheerless skies, furious winds and pelting rains driving every living thing to shelter … the nights by the fire, cats curled and snoring dog by my side, and raging fire in the stove complementing a glass of wine and a good book. It all turns me inward, happily seeking those deep and dark discoveries that nurture feelings that may have been folded up and laid off in a far corner, all stirring up the words that act as bridge from my secret shadows to the light. I write a lot in the winter. But this winter? What winter?
It seems so long go now that the mighty oaks that surround us here still wore their orange robes and dared winter to come and strip them bare, and drive the last of their life deep into the ground, deep into their roots, that quiet place that harbors the bit of life-force left over. There the flame grows and builds until spring sucks it all back up into the green glory of rebirth. I was so excited for the winter to come, then … I felt so like those trees, daring but ready to welcome the time I’d be sent to the underworld for the winter.
When the first great storm of our season was predicted and well on its way, I watched carefully as the wind began to whip and churn and then hit with a roar, the air suddenly alive with oak-leaf like panicked butterflies, and within an hour the orange robe was reduced to carpet under my feet and trees stood naked and shivering. The winds tore trees from the ground, felled them onto houses and roads, the rains backed up the seasonal streams and caused ponds to over fill and overflow turning pastures to lakes and our Yuba River into a torrent that shook me to the bone.
A few of these storms primed our winter and covered the neighboring hills and mountains with a white shawl – and then stopped coming.
A sun seeker such as myself cannot be driven indoors, let alone deep within when the skies are clear. There’s too much to do! With a little farm and its resident horses and goat to care for, the extra time allowed in any day was consumed by the sunny day routines normally left to the drier months. When clouds would cloak the sun, and the mists would rise from the valley to bathe us with that bone-cold chill, I rejoiced. Despite more than a month of mornings in the mid 20’s that I hacked – with a hammer – at 1 inch thick ice in the horse’s troughs, even those clear mid-January days that usually offer no warmth at all no matter how long you bathe in the sun’s light, were an illusion. I sat outside one day all dressed in my winter warmies actually hoping that the darkened skies, rays of sun biting through like shards of crystal, might somehow connect me to winter but started to peel the layers of fleece off as the sun warmed me too much. Warm sun in January.
Its interesting to me that, for me, this no-winter, rather than filled with words sprouting from fertile thought was time set instead deep in the doldrums. No current, no wind for my sails. Echoing the upturned season, perhaps, it has been filled with what I consider to be ‘spiritless writing’, hours spent pouring over old words as I continue to stuff them into the various and very different tight harness’ that are required of agents and publishers I pursue for ‘Graces’. 380 words distilled into synopsis of 1 page, 2 pages, 5 pages, or a chapter-by-chapter outline. A 2 paragraph summary, or how about a 2 page summary? Drives me nuts. It’s the part of being an author that I hold no fondness for. There has seemed to be little left over energy to put into this blog, or into my new novel that wants to burst out and thrive in the light.
But I’m starting to see that the gift of this no-winter’ is just that. Time to ride out the doldrums with the hard stuff – leave the flowers to the spring.
Now I am tired of mourning winter’s missing and am driven to get on with welcoming spring. (Watch, we’ll get another monumental storm next week, now that I’ve said that!)
There has been one lovely plus offered up by the non-winter – the lack of mud! Not only because of the horses, but because we now have lovely Lovie in our lives, who loves nothing more than diving head first into a puddle, digging frantically until it is a roiling mass of muck, coming up for breath now and again until she is finished with what I only surmise she considers to be her masterpiece – a broad dog smile shining out from the black sticky mud that covers her head to her shoulders, and her paws to her belly. So … that lack of muddy earth has been a blessing in one sense!
Lovie has gained 12 pounds since she came to us, a frightened ball of bones, in September. She’s such a joyful sprite who in the kind weather has been able to spend hours each day discovering what it is like to be the puppy she never got to be! She turned 1 in January (our guess) and upon reaching that milestone, began doing the devilish things pups are known to do… shoes or tools, or anything within reach actually, waggling from her mouth as she runs and leaps her way to the barn and back, happily bringing them when called only to grin and leap away to the far ends of the acres where we only can find her prizes after a major hunt … inserts gnawed, cats chased, hiding prized gopher heads in her mouth to deposit onto the hearth rug, jumping up to stand on the car hood, (“but the cats do it…”) joyfully dismembering and disemboweling her stuffies one by one and spreading their insides to the four directions. Really, all we see is a dog allowed to ‘become’ herself; a spirit once so encased in a fear that she could see goodness in nothing, allowed to emerge in safety, she’s burst from her chrysalis, and with her new joy has come a personality so enormous no darkness could ever again contain. Her once-deep well of fears is now very shallow, with only a few shadows left clinging to its crumbling walls. She still trembles at the sound of loud motorcycles and gunshot, and has distrust really of only one last person who I just think doesn’t understands dogs or what it was that she had to live through in her past, but we’re doing our best to help her move past these last remnants. She loves the dog park, her pack and their happy people, and at about 1:30 each day begins to pester and implore, as it surely is time to go… to run and wrestle with Buddy and Karma and Fred and other dogs who like her, came from devastated lives to emerge joyful bringers of happiness. We can’t say ‘Karma’, or ‘dog park’ out loud unless we can stand the time that follows that she wines and frets as she insists “get thee there”. (She is learning Greek now – like Djuna did before her – and soon ‘tha pa’me to parko?’ is something we’ll be spelling rather than saying.)
We love our Lovie, a bright blessing
that sprang from a different sort of
the one that enshrouded us
for a long time after Djuna died, a winter of the soul.
So now, in February as the daffies and narcissus persist in their usual trajectory from earth to sun and on to their big show, exploding into blossom at the end of the month, I brush away the annoyance I’ve felt by being snubbed by winter and start tending to the juicy shoots starting to emerge in ideas and words … my own ‘big show’, I presume, whatever it may be. It’s good that this life keeps us guessing…
One flower that emerged from the non-winter and the decomposing remains of my life in modern folk music – I am organizing an early September ‘non tour’ to Greece for 8 to 12 independent travelers … I will be the ‘midwife’ rather than a ‘tour guide’ for those who choose to come along – there to ensure a safe and comfortable birth into experience of the culture and this place I love so well. I will arrange transportation, accommodation and furnish ways to experience the Greece and island beauty that lives behind the veil that many regular travelers never get past. We will start with 2 full days exploring history and antiquity in Athens and then travel to a group of islands in the western Aegean, the Sporades … the gates of the wind … namely, to the island Skiathos, a gorgeous, verdant place to which Paul and I have traveled to for 27 years, where one can explore delight, swim, just sit and stare, eat, drink, hike, visit other neighboring islands … paint with my dear friend Yvonne Ayoub, learn about myth and magic and history of the islands with my friend, historian and author and resident of Skiathos, Victoria Sandels … or spend quiet time somewhere that is purely magical, with me, working on writing prompts … Something for everyone. If any of you are interested, please let me know how best to contact you.
Breathing in, breathing out. Welcoming Spring, now … In Gratitude.