In Every Season: the Richness of Winter -by Kiva
In Every Season: the Richness of Winter
In the Winter, the willows by the river turn red and purple — brilliant wands against the golds and browns of the canyon. Closer up, you can see the soft white and silver of their buds, round and tight as if Spring were coming almost any day now. The closer to the roots you get, the lighter the purple until the bark nearly is nearly lavender where it grows from the cool, wet ground.
There’s the illusion that everything is dead and quiet in the cold season, but in reality the air still tingles with the scent of Alders and Cottonwoods, baby plants peek from under Autumn’s brown leaves and the color and texture of bark and leaf seems to change almost daily. While certainly not a season of proliferation and rapid growth, the Winter remains alive and vibrant under the snow. I gather Nettles and Wild Mustard greens, Elm bark and Yucca roots. In the coldest months of the year, I place my bare fingers on the cold, frozen ground and I can still feel the pulse of life beneath the surface. Under the soft, wet fall of fat snowflakes, the lichen swell and expand, even fruiting in what seems like the most unlikely of weather. In shades ranging from orange to gold, sage to lime green to grey, they cling to rocks and trees with fierce tenacity through rain and ice, sucking in every spare bit of moisture, and glowing with the vibrant life that it brings.
It’s hard to see these things locked away indoors, keeping warm by the wood fire and working through the short days and long evenings. The illusion might hold itself more intact if I’d just stay inside like a proper modern human. But when I wander out of doors, tracing my fingers across frosted tree bark and stroking the long intricate threads of the Usnea lichen, it’s hard to imagine this landscape as anything close to dead, or even truly asleep. Intensity, color, texture, scent and most of all -life- springs from every surface, uncoils and blooms from every rock crevice and hollow stump. Even in the slow decay of leaves mouldering on the forest floor, life is evident and thriving in the bacteria slowly consuming and remaking from discarded plant matter to rich soil. Scraping a thin layer of slush away from the ground underfoot, I find vivid green moss, swollen and soft with moisture, drinking the abundance deep down.
It’s easy to make a habit out of hiding out in the house when the weather outside seems less than ideal, but we miss so much beauty and wonder that way. The breathtaking shift and play of light during storms is surely best observed out in the rain rather than from behind the window glass and the interaction of plant and water can really only be seen close up, preferably down on your hands and knees, face close to the earth. The scent of fresh fallen snow is most intense standing out in a newly white meadow or lying down in thickly blanketed pine forest. These are experiences that can only be had by active participation with the natural world. No movie, book or second hand description will do. It’s like love or eating, an active experience in which we – our individual selves- are necessary. Too many of us glean our knowledge, our perspective, our memories and often even our physical experience of life through the books we read, the films we watch and the glossy pages of magazines but a life well-lived is not the stuff of books or documentaries no matter how informative, pleasing or complex. It is woven of personal, physical, very intense experience. A thousand thoroughly read Westerns will not give you even the slightest sense of the real rhythm of riding a running horse or the scent of the prairies after a summer rain. The books may give us an idea of what to expect or even provide us with the details on how to saddle the horse or an in-depth description of the appearance or botany of a wildflower. Stories evoke and inspire, prod and provoke, but they are no replacement for the actual gallop or bloom. Living is a body-wide, self-enveloping sensation that engages every part of us, so rich with subtleties and feelings we are left breathless, savoring even as we immerse ourselves in the next moment as it arrives… in the now.
So brave the cold and wind, bundle up and plunge out into the wintery wildness of outside and go find what pine tree smells like in the rain, or how the leaves of plants turn remarkable, brilliant colors under feet of snow. Press your cheek to the rough tangle of a lichen and listen to the murmur of life as the sun peeks through the clouds and warms your face.
Categories: Practicing Animá Lifeways