With less bodacious colors clamoring at our senses, textures are afforded room for their voices to be felt. Although “traditional” snow levels and expectations of “used to be” temperatures can no longer be counted upon, fortunately the leaves still generally let go by this time. The undergrowth bushes and grasses have withdrawn, gone inward, in preparation for the cold that will come.
The sun rises late now, hangs low all day, so the horizon views are more expansive because the skyline gets extended with less framing foliage. Yet the view is also more intimate, as the individual trees, formerly draped in garments of green turned gold and crimson, finally get to show off their hard-earned new figures, after enduring three seasons of growth. It’s easy for me to imagine their roots are secretly all holding hands under the table top of Earth, where we can’t see. The skies always feel to me a bit crisper on these clear December days.
The earth itself is dormant, asleep perhaps, but clearly still breathing. The frozen ground often suspends the melted snows, frosts, or rains on its surface. The little pools become cameo mirrors, underfoot pockets of shifting sky. The tender but stalwart silver and golden ochre grasses wave softly when the winds are passing a whisper along. For some reason when I choose to wander along the river’s edge at this time of year, I seem to encounter few humans. This generally suits me fine—I know I can find them in the coffee lounges, or our village shops, or online. On some of these restorative walks, I may not see them because I try to make time to step off the paved path (if only for a few moments) to be near the water’s edge. It’s kinda become my own way of honoring this ancient conduit of life.
I love how walking slows us down and puts our body in sync with our heart, mind and soul. It takes me inward and at the same time opens me to the “soul” of life beyond me. When the cold is bearable enough and I’m sensibly layered enough, and can stand keeping still for a bit, very occasionally, within the palpable winter quiet I may notice the delicate twitch of a stalk or the hint of grasses rustling. I like to imagine it’s a shy mouse discreetly waving at me. More often a brazen field sparrow emerges, flitting, chirping and darting to the next patch in search of seeds. That particular twitching is a familiar sound of old, from the days when I was a (not entirely typical) teen boy “hunting” for mice in the fields and industrial park lots near our home. We’d flip over the discarded cardboard that served as “roofs” to the mouse compounds below. Any critters would race away in a gray-umber blur, leaving behind a soft, loosely woven nest of soft, cozy bedding materials. It was never quite clear how we’d catch them, nor what we’d do with one if we did—but we were thrilled by the hunt!
It’s odd how memories and sensations acquired nearly fifty years ago remain vivid. The decades of experiences that accumulate within us, become a part of us — or perhaps we become them? I wonder if our seemingly unique personal experiences can serve a purpose opposite how we normally frame life. Rather than marking us as individuals, sometimes I feel they’re nudging us to shed the covers of our arbitrary individual identities, our own protective and necessary layers of foliage, and instead recognize how connected we humans are to the whole.
I long ago let go of the desire to catch any critters physically, but I do love catching the sights and sounds and sensations of the fields, and breezes, and distant soft bird songs echoing against the gray winter skies, and allowing it all to penetrate into and through me. And especially, being accepted without pretense or judgment into the presence of this quiet, ever-unfolding majesty.