Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The pace of the season

We have made it past the Ides of January. With a modicum of luck, today will be our last single-digit high temperature until sometime next Winter, or never. There have been more woodpeckers than usual at the suet today: downy, hairy, red-bellied and pileated have all been seen at one time or another this morning. There's also been a red-breasted nuthatch, looking a little like a miniature common kingfisher, minus the bright blue back and head, taking bits of suet.

tamarack bog in Winter
Photo by J. Harrington

It's been weeks since we've seen a turkey or a deer. Some mornings it's clear that deer have wandered through the yard. Their tracks have left grooves in the snow's crust. Turkeys must be flocked up somewhere else this year. When warmer days arrive later this week, we'll wander the perimeter of the property and see if we can find tracks or droppings anywhere.

Winter is a time when much of life is hibernating, dormant, hidden under snow cover and leading life at a slower pace than prevails in the other three seasons. It is a time for reflection, contemplation and preparation for what we want to undertake in the seasons of birth and growth that lie ahead.

The Ojibwe people, in their medicine wheel, associate Winter with North, Air/Wind, Cedar, Spiritual Health and Elders. "The Northern Doorway represents rest, reflection, wisdom and sharing." Druidry offers similar perspectives on this season. Instead, many of us accelerate our activities during the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, adding to the stress of contemporary life's rapid pace. We're just now learning how challenging it is to slow down and enjoy life. To rest and reflect is a different form of being "busy." If we never slow down to Winter's pace, how can we tell how much we're hurrying at other times of the year?

The Waking


Theodore Roethke, 1908 - 1963


I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.


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