Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Seasons Turn


Each year, as October nears its end, we mark Halloween as the potential dividing line between the fall and winter seasons. Snow that arrives near this spirited celebration could stay on the ground for the rest of the winter season. Psychologically, this is a little like the wind and rains and slush of April carrying on into May when we long for the warmth of spring: it pushes us to endure an unusually long winter season. We always hope winter waits off stage for just a few more weeks and this year it did.

We relished the warm and dry days of early November by treating ourselves to a brief lunch outside and working in the unusual warmth of a late fall afternoon. Pete had begun feeding the horses a bit of hay: a normal ritual for the first part of November. But two weeks into November, the seasonal clock turned within twelve hours: eight inches of snow fell, the roads turned to ice, and the meadows fell beneath an early winter drape.

With winter’s arrival, I sensed, as I do every year, its competing invitations to retreat and to engage. While I relished sitting peacefully at my desk for a few hours the first day the snow fell, I knew I would later step outside to touch winter, to take in its return. I tightened my snowshoes down as Emma and Griz quickly sprinted ahead of me through the green gate and onto the meadow: Emma’s head just peeking out beneath the snow; Griz darting, racing, his joy filling the cool overcast afternoon. I ducked beneath the snow laden aspen branches to follow and soon witnessed winter’s art resting on the fence line and a thirty-year-old ladder rescued from my children’s tree house. I found the irrigation ditch still running, its pace slowed, the first ice flows forming; soon to coalesce and remain silent until spring. The horses stood at the feeders luxuriating in its bountiful hay. I found the hitching post now at ease; a rope hanging on the arena gate, frosty and forgotten; and a wagon wheel, a still and receding visible remnant of a time long ago.

Back home, I shook off the snow from my snowshoes and placed them on a hook in front of the garage. Winter eventually calls. Once attuned, I answer the call, both at my desk in reflection and later as I stride out across the meadows with Emma and Griz: the chill, a call to awaken and know myself in relationship to the world in which I live; and the landscape, an invitation to experience that which arises in the still and the quiet of its fold.

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