For many weeks the days had been below or barely above freezing, cloudy, cloudy rainy, cloudy snowy and finally freezing fogs of many variations for two weeks. All of these possessed their own mysteries and charms, it’s true.
I had finally embraced the endless freezing fog series uniqueness when a clear cold night dropped the temp way down. The morning brought bright sun before before being filtered by high netted buttermilk clouds with patterns all across the sky. The clouds became denser, less defined, but never developed rain.
Next morning I found gentle rain falling and a temperature well above freezing when heading out to the barn to do chores. While giving goats hay in their stalls I heard what sounded like a bird upset about something and so I peered through the west door to better investigate. Two birds of a species absent for months Were singing as they fluttered and hopped about undergrowth. All at once It just felt like Spring had arrived all at once! I love that feeling – it’s full of hope, joy and gratitude. Mystery is a key element of the feeling too, though it plays more like a silent song, permeating the other feelings causing them to dance, filling any gaps if present as it goes.
Later, the first frog of the season added it’s familiar and welcome voice to the magic day. I realized how special a change was like this, well beyond signaling warmer weather. A change anywhere in the circle of life’s rituals is to be revered, prized and held close the heart.
During the following weeks, I have enjoyed recounting my first change of season tale with people and hearing of theirs. Mostly I wait till they offer the first comment on the topic. We can become excited by the smallest events because we understand the significance in a very simple, deep manner. It’s life itself on some level.
A wonderful gift showed itself last evening on my walk to feed the goats and lock up the chickens. Bundled up warmly to better enjoy my time outside doing chores and taking in the fresh air, I had taken several careful steps in the darkness before looking up. Waiting for my admiration and joy was the First Waxing Crescent following the New Moon. With all the recent clouds and fog I had lost track of the Moon’s progress and was completely surprised by the discovery.
That is how I like to find my favorite nature treats: by accident, fortune, fate, destiny or, perhaps, faith. Sunshine, Starlight and Moon Beams are when and where you find them in this part of the Pacific Northwest. Many are the times I have plotted a remake of an enchanting moment only to find my way blocked by clouds of any or all sorts. (Lucky for me, as I mentioned in the last post, I have finally made a great peace with clouds and rain, regarding them a gift of nature in full possession of their own good standing. )
I had initially slipped away from the dinner company with a certain sense of urgency to return with the compost pail empty in case food preparation began. The house was long and far in the past and right now the First Crescent’s call needed to be answered. I was all about watching the Moon until it disappeared or my toes lost feeling.
As the Moon shown through twisted oak branches as it settled, it’s brightness changing along with it’s shape. When it was masked completely, the reflected Earth light from it’s surface became visible softly, oddly, amongst the trees. The reappearing Crescent repeated the performance quickly enough it seemed to be falling. I loved the effect.When it failed to show again I went back to the help with the meal preparation being released from the spell.
I thought to make a point of looking for the Crescent again the next evening but forgot completely. By chance, again, I was able to see the Second Crescent when looking for the Sunset. I guess when it’s time for the next event it will be become clear.
Somehow, I imagined this year’s winter solstice observance would follow a similar pattern as the last. With lights off I would watch the sky slowly lighten, anticipating the sun’s eventual showing in thin slices through slots of the forest canopy. Outside, I would put some more wood on the fire in the “way back” and, by its warmth, alternate between two of my time honored customs. One, watching the sun track up across the sky westward and then, dwelling on its high point, follow it downward till it disappeared into the horizon, mood changing as the long night began anew. The other, simply staring “off ” into the fire mesmerized by the elegant kaos of it’s dynamic nature – often for long whiles, unable or willing to break the trance.
In the morning, Nature, of course, reminded me it was okay to make plans for showing up but beyond that her lesson plan for me contained a message of uncertainty. Once more, reminded of the importance of learning to embrace the randomnesses of reality with a sense of intrigue and humor, I was “surprised” to find drops of rain instead of rays of sun.
Easing into the slowly graying dawn, a calm filled me. It was peaceful and cozy, almost theoretical. I wondered what the reason was for the rapid shift in my mood. A slow realization finally showed me how freeing the rain was by lessening options – like enjoying a fire outside under the sky or laying on my back watching all that passes above and around. This shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise as I had noticed how reassuring a windless cloudy sky was. (Wind possesses an invigorating spirit, though different from the sun’s.)
This morning my expectation of a sunny day outwardly calling me to the task of tracking it’s progress sharply contrasting with the timeless feel of shadowless gray softness bringing reflections inward. Turning aside from my gardening instincts, I love the clouds and rain all they bring! A day or night filled with cloud, rain and fog is moderated for me. Mellow, reflective.
I’ll say it one more time to make sure it’s true, I love the rain!
I take a moment for the future and plant two kiwi vines. In the still gray-brown light of late afternoon I dig holes from the earth. The scent of tiny unseen life evidences earth as nurturer and mother even in mid-winter.
My part in the process of placing plants in the ground evokes feelings, gentle tingling sensations in my mind. I question the feelings (which exist without my thoughts).
Staring at the earth, now feeling it, I think then then feel deep within myself. Think, feel – think, feel – think, feel ——–an answer. I feel a bridge to nature. I am animal, human—part of the elements and subject to them at the same time. I thirst and hunger. I sweat and shiver. I feel and wonder.
I recognize the tingling now. It is the acknowledgment of the spirit of living. The spirit of relation to all in our world. It feels good.
The sky has darkened gently, my mood of perception has changed. Feelings are strong, thoughts are intermittent. Beyond the great spreading oaks where I am standing is our field. The fence is gone so the way is clear.
My glance to this open place is held. Fog is forming – it draws me, calls. I go, I walk-aboutwhere my feelings bring me. Life is now.
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Each time the world around me becomes quiet and still with more darkness than light or loud and busy with more light than darkness, I find myself trying to understand what is truly happening and how it effects me. It seems the event passes by me into the past while my comprehension and appreciation go onward lacking fresh insight into the significance of the Earth and Sun enacting ancient rites one more time.
One year ago I devoted three days and nights to trying to gain a better sense of what happens at the “end of the year”. The routine involved early rising to observe the first light and following changes in lighting, emergence and progression of the sun through the sky. And, of course, there was a wood fire outside for warmth and the reminder of its role in our lives through the ages. Then retiring early, using minimal lights, and awaiting the signs of first light.
This year, continuing last years celebration, I intend to observe and reflect on this Winter Solstice in a proper manner by spending three days submersed in and surrounded by nature. Just as Earth and Sun have their dance together as a work in progress, I am developing my own rituals to accompany their divine movements. I will only write journal entries on paper until the 22nd when I will go online once again and post some fresh insights into the slowly lightening world renewed……..
Favorite scene while light of day or moon fades or or grows.
As I begin observing the changes in my mood at falls end I feel gratitude for the continued affirmations of life all around me. Then acceptance of a shutting down of the growth cycle and of having to wait for renewal. And as I begin observing changes in natures mood in my surroundings, at first it seems like the end of the year-the final season, a time of rest while making plans for a far off time of beginning anew. Gradually, however, after noticing the subdued quality of gentle light produced by a low sun and often (multiple) cloud layer(s), for several weeks, Joy and Wonder grow inside me, again, as my world nears Winter Solstice.
The slowness of the earth allows a deeper reflection, a pondering, deeper in a sense than when the raging life force of the warm growth season causes such raucous sensations throughout my world.
For practical purposes the days are as short now as they will be in 6 more days at Solstice. These long nights have always been welcome at the end of the major outdoor season for the slower pace and change of purpose. The pipe freezing finger numbing cold was more about simple survival. (And I suppose thanksgiving for the rest of the year). I viewed the passing of the longest night and shortest day with a warm and lightened heart, refilled with hope. The short, cold, wet days made working on trees and being in nature difficult and I never looked forward to any of them. Until last year when I decided to name Winter Solstice as sacred and to better observe it for 3 days: the day and night before, the day and night of and the day and night after.