We have a lot of snow this winter. A Lot. Consequently, I have been snowshoeing a course around my neighborhood on as many afternoons as I can. The pace (slow, methodical, each foot carefully placed) is necessary because I’m not especially fit and at 66 have learned to fear falling. (I think I learned that in childhood, actually.) If I take care, pay attention, I feel safe. The pace is also a meditation. My path runs off my little porch, down the alley across the back yard, around the (snow-buried) fire pit and down the hill into the cottonwood gully that runs alongside the my property (that is the land for which I am currently the tender). Rabbits (we have many) use my trails. Or I use theirs. I never see them, only their sign. Four p.m., approaching sundown, is my favorite time to trek. I know it’s not a trek in the truest sense, but from the gully across the high banks alongside the road, into the field and around the curved edge that follows the railroad spur is roughly a quarter mile one way and cutting trail on snowshoes makes a half-mile a decent workout.
At the furthest point, I circle my dear little grove of star sisters (a clump of 11 cottonwoods), usually several times to wear a path and observe the day’s scene. Inside the circle, sitting on a tiny reflective mat, I journal with a drafters pencil and tattered book, drink tea (today Sencha Green with lemon — some bitter to cut the winter kapha); sometimes I eat a food bar and pretend I’m far from the city camping in the woods. I listen to the star sisters and they tell me stories and ask me leading questions. I make notes. I’ve done this at 20 below and 20 above, in a mild blizzard and on a day so sunny I trod blind most of the time. Every time it is both meditation and inspiration. My thoughts are either fanciful or philosophical, but they are NOT full of worry, woe or anger.
This is Yoga: bhakti full of praise and gratitude; mudra as I walk four-legged; asana, attending to position and flowing easily from one step to the next (and sometimes falling down to rise again butt first). The fast rich flow of words that brought me so much joy a few weeks past has slowed. I yearn for it and accept the cycling of the energy, the planets, the moon, now waxing and calling me to complete that which is begun and needs to be done and released. The stories I am writing down bring with them a sense of urgency. I cannot tell if I am channeling something meant to be left mostly untouched, or if this is part of the writing process, and time and editing will bring a better result. My decision is to relax about it all. Finally, I am relearning how I write and how my imagination is best accessed. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this sense of fertility and necessity. How, then, do we learn to nurture and feed the flame, rather than dilute it with too many projects or put it out altogether by flying on the next thing? This is a life question for me, as for many others, urged as we are to pay attention to every new shiny thing that flashes a wave. I am a triple water sign—snowfield or lake feel much the same to me.
In this cycle, my focus is on service in the form of family caregiving and attending to outside obligations (worship coordinator for church, a couple social justice activities, teaching Kundalini Yoga) as well as I can, while carving out half of my time for my own practices: writing and moving my body. This is what I’m telling myself, anyway. To what are you giving your attention as late northern winter settles? Very soon it will be (already is) time to start thinking of and preparing for spring—why I drank bitter tea today. The longing for seed catalogs is already rising.
Meanwhile, there are snowshoes, crisp air, shimmering light, and soup on the stove. The best words, the subtlest thought, might be left behind on the trail, but the sunset is beautiful. Twilight walking is sublime. Tomorrow offers another chance to do or not do. I get to choose. So do we all.