Let Yourself Grow!

Winter Landscape at Sunset

antonsnow

Winter Landscape at Sunset, Anton Mauve (Dutch,  c.1885-87.)

“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.”

— Albert Einstein

This week in mid December the thermometer at the wide window of my western exposure has reported -7 to 44F. Standing close to the fire in the woodstove, I watched the “outside life” slide slowly into the quiet whispers of winter. In just a few hours, the last leaves caught in the wire fence, tufts of emerald green grass, and stiff stalks of Kale disappeared beneath brilliant white snow edged in hard grey ice. The sky darkened, the wind blew. The Poplar communities huddled together, the white Birches leaned and dipped, carrying pencil thin snow loads in silence, until wind or sun relieved them of the burden.

The spare plainness of organic form on light, black branches on white snow, wiped away any subtlety or shading. The four elements of life shouted out their truth; the earth is quiet, the water still, time in the light is short! Sporting illusions are meant for gentler, longer days. Epiphanies come fast and furious in this stark landscape. Ice isn’t gentle, and cold has no conscience.

We are not separate from what we like to call “Nature.” Bring on your fancy down jacket, and the heat tape, we are that which we call Nature, and she is us. Skate if you wish across frozen natural truths, you will eventually come home to the thin ice of Earth born mortality.

I have already accepted the mantra:

Whatever works for a tree, works for me.

edvardmunch1915winterlandscape

Winter Landscape, Edvard Munch 1915

These are my gentle alignments that come to pass on a quiet walk in the overgrown backfield on a snowy December afternoon. The frosty air clears my sinuses. I watch as the dogs push warm noses into mysterious snow mounds. They look up at me with fantastically funny white beards and a comic’s straight man face, “What? What’s so funny?” New snow is a dog’s miracle.

Extraneous thoughts drain out of my head like the watery mucus from my running nose. It’s very bright, very clear.

“A bonus!” I think.

The snow adds so much light to a dark day. I am grateful for the reflected light that fills my eyes in the days of long slow darkness. I have left my backpack full of, “I need to,” over there, leaning against the side of the barn. When words stop, senses come out of hibernation.

Stepping back, there is a crunch of boot on fresh snow. A tall elegant Truth strolls by me, donned in ice-encrusted branches with hoarfrost festoons on curled brown leaves. I follow the crooked finger with my eyes, walking across downed Goldenrod and winding grapevines to the rear tree line where I see the Dogwood relative splayed out across the fence. The still attached leaves had taken on ice and snow and the weight was too much. The cold caused brittle, the wind blew, and the graceful tree was snapped in half. In a tenuous fracture, she was broken from the weight of water and ice encasing the leaves that clung to her branches; a casualty of the natural progression of cold and wet at the entrance of winter.

Standing in the hour of sunlight of the afternoon of just pre-solstice December, it came to me. In this light it was crystal clear. It is our inability to let go of our leaves at the end of a season that causes human beings so much angst, and yes, agony. It is our inability to accept that seasons come and go, wind happens, all things have a natural ending as well as beginning. It is just all grist for the mill. To argue this changes nothing. To cling to the past is to be weakened, taken down, cracked open in the cold leveler that is winter.

I heard it clearly out there.

“Let it go already! Give it up! Move on, forgive,

 Let yourself Grow!”

The anger, the hurts, disappointments, the stuff, the sadness, let it all go. Toss it onto the great sacred compost heap of human experience. Let the leaves of past seasons become the rich indiscriminate fertilizer of collective wisdom.

Out in the field, my crunchy truthful friend spoke.

“No need to understand the whys, drop the leaves on the ground and walk away.”

 

davidgrossmanwinterdayending

Winter Day Ending David Grossman

In the past week at this Northern latitude, mountainous grey thunderclouds have tumbled across our upper landscape. It has snowed, rained, precipitated in shapes that only the far Northwest Native people would recognize as separate entities. We have been blown about by winds capable of moving massive arctic fronts across our entire continent. We have been frozen solid, thawed, wet and flooded all in the same afternoon.

These are powerful forces and yet the trees, for the most part, stand strong in the wind, despite the cold, despite the short days. All the while, in the dark ground, the roots stretch out, growing thicker and stronger, reaching out to new depths.

 

Tomorrow will be a short dark day, the next the darkest yet, the Solstice of 2016. I intend to enjoy this time. I wish you Safe passage and Much Growth this blessed Winter season.

 

Know in Your Bones-Solstice 2015

Harvest Moon George Innes 1891

“Harvest Moon,” by George Inness

Here we are in the land of real winter.

Four p.m. and the sun is setting over my field of dried Goldenrod. The plant kingdom outside my window is playing the Madrigal of “darkness into light.” Having read the darkening days, the plants have surrendered into the season, dropping down into the underworld to rest and recover after three busy Quarters of generativity. I have watched green turn to brown, leaf into root, the spirit of each moving out of the light, away from the touch of cold. To the square cell folk, darkness means relief for a while, of the burden of “growing and expanding.” Yes, green things are dying all around us. December in the north end of the Northern Hemisphere is all about dying back, dying into the whole.

“In nature, darkness is neither good nor bad but simply a neutral condition in which things rest, take root and grow.”

Thom Cavalli, author of Alchemical Psychology

It would seem such a tragic loss, but we know in our bones that the light will come again. I wonder as I watch, “What did we as humans loose when we forgot how to sit in the dark?”

Everything that dies “out there” isn’t abandoned or lost. It is cheerfully chewed on, mopped up, and fully consumed by the hungry creatures of the single cell set. When the light comes back, when the air is warm, when last years achievements have sunk deep into the mud, new growth will appear. We have exempted ourselves from this process. We have no imperative to stay close and warm and dream in the dark. This “quiet time” is healing time. Time and space allows last years hurts to fall away. Was there an ill-conceived branch or a vole-decimated root? No worries! Dream a new dream. All will be used. Ever see a plant landfill?

What if we had this much resolve to utilize our own emotional flotsam? What if we were positive that after a quiet dark time of reflection, our painful emotional escapades would feed our present life with the great vitality of a rich fertilizer? The key here is to know in our bones that the light will come again.

Could it be that healing hurt and tragedy, allowing joy to regenerate us, requires time and the acceptance? If we want to fertilize our psyche with the richness of the experience we call “life,” then we need to acknowledge a time called Winter. We require seasons to process the growing and the healing. My intention for a full lived life would look like this:

“I have used all my tools at least once, I have been on both sides of almost all the major relationship quandaries and have reached the end of my life holding lots of love and not much else.”

I think a bit of naptime might be good for our culture. An improvement certainly over the frazzled, out of sorts, 24 hour a day tantrum that is our Americonsumer Christmas. Never met a 2 year old who didn’t feel so much better after a nap.

Home at Montclair George Innes

Home at Montclair by George Innes

So here we find ourselves knocking at the Solstice door once again. Not so much dark as…quiet presence in stasis. My “well lived life” scenario in the dark times of the year might be:

“I will work a shorter day, sleep more, sit by a fire and allow the rhythms of the season to rock my psyche into balance until the light comes back.”

All made possible because…

We know in our bones that the light will come again.

We all crave alignment to something more ancient than our own most recent manifestation. Nature is beyond the teacher, nature is how it works. Is there a time when we will cease to need the dark in order to describe the light?

That’s a question for the spring!

Wishing everyone a blessed return of Light in whatever form you find most beautiful.

 

 

T.F. Cavalli, Alchemical psychology, Old Recipes for Living in a New World, (New York: Penguin/Putnam, 2002)

George Innes (May 1, 1825 – August 3, 1894) was an influential American landscape painter. His work was influenced, in turn, by that of the old masters, the Hudson River school, the Barbizon school, and, finally, by the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg, whose spiritualism found vivid expression in the work of Inness’ maturity. Often called “the father of American landscape painting,”[1][2][3] Inness is best known for these mature works that not only exemplified the Tonalistmovement but also displayed an original and uniquely American style.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Inness

“Harvest Moon,” by George Inness, oil on canvas, 30 by 44 ½ inches, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., bequest of Mabel Stevens Smithers, The Frances Sydney Smithers Memorial, 1891

“Home at Montclair,” allpaintings.org

 

Singing the Solstice Blues

Solstice 2014

We chased the sunset; flying due west across the Southern United States at sunset on the Solstice of 2014. This final day of descent into darkness in the Northern Hemisphere has always been notable to me. In the last few years Solstice prayers and hopes have been etched on heart and they played out their mysteries in the months that followed. It isn’t the darkness that catches my attention. It is the echo of rituals past when people and the earth sang together, danced together in mutual care and respect.

Solstice is an intractable physical event; like puberty or menopause, birth and death. An astrological alignment of sun and earth described in light and shadow expressing constants floating in a sea of other potential outcomes. All this drama played out right here in our own intimate corner of the universe. These behemoth players dance the archetypes of sacred interrelationships on a planetary stage of constant change. For the early watchers, when survival was more primordial, the daily sunset was mortality, the sunrise a prayer of gratitude.

The Solstice is the shortest day, the least light, the final exhale of this solar year. Seems worth a few moments of contemplation amidst digital distractions of pre Christmas cheer. Our 21st century world is not a jazzy hologram or fantastical computer generated image, but a living breathing entity. We the humans, are here, because there is a “here.” All that happens in the physical realm is “that” which allows us a life in the physical. We are all part of this beautiful planet earth and one of her children. It would seem reasonable to listen to “Mom” now and then, give a hand up to those in need, and say thanks once in a while for our ride on this fantastic space ship.

I was reminded this year to mark the darkest day by an explorer in the realms of plant devas. An in-training Anam cara of the apple tree has reminded those of us who listen of the olde practice of wassailing. A sweet and chilly practice of going to the trees that feed us in summer to give encouragement in their hardest and darkest days. The grace of warm breath amongst chilly trees, human voices singing out support, grateful hearts banishing dark spirits who would bruise and maim the creators of food and fruit. Marking miracles makes sense.
Attend the last breath
makes the next breath feel so sweet.