I spent a few hours last week shoveling the latest ice and snow from my driveway. Thanks to a neighbor with a Bobcat, and a husband with a John Deere, snow has been pushed and plowed into something resembling an ever-growing fortification wall on both sides of the drive. I'd been away from home for a while, sitting in dark corridors, staring through dirty windows as the weather turned gray and messy. I was looking forward to getting outside with shovel in hand.
For me, shoveling is comfort, solace, movement, solitude, a time for creativity. My mind wanders to the beauty and the stillness of a winter afternoon. I notice the light passing through the crevices and gullies in that wall of snow shining glacier blue, a color I've seen only in photographs of the picturesque north, say Alaska or Norway. It stops me in my tracks, this unexpected gift. I take a few moments to breathe it in.
The trees are covered in ice. They look festive, bejeweled. A red-tail hawk passes overhead, then a black vulture. A crow caws, settling down to roost for the evening. The neighborhood is quiet once again. As I return to my work, I hear the crack of a limb nearby, and am momentarily stunned with an unnamed fear. Across the street, a bough breaks and falls. I have not been crushed, and my fear abates, but I am saddened for the white pine. She has suffered much through the many storms we've had these last two years, and her gashed trunk bears witness to these amputations. I offer a healing prayer, and one of thanks. Pine makes great medicine, particularly for coughs, and I will take the gift of white pine indoors to make syrup.
Holiday season is upon us once again,. It is the week of Groundhog Day, Candlemas, the Feast of Saint Blaise, the celebration of Imbolc, and of St. Brigid. Chinese New Year hovers in this time. We are midway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. The groundhog tells us we have six weeks of winter remaining, whether or not he sees his shadow. The earth is quickening, the sap is rising, the land is beginning to show signs of spring. Snowbells bloom, raising their heads through the snow. Maple tree tapping season begins.
I usually observe the holiday by lighting a candle, and having a special meal. This year I observed. Simply observed.
Onion grass pokes through the snow. The sun sets later and later in the day. I listen for the crack that heralds another bough breaking, and understand the fear. I appreciate the dull asphalt blackness growing in the drive. It is beautiful to me. I know I will not slip and fall, not today. I am stronger for the shoveling, healthier, and at peace.
How will you find your beauty in the solace of this season? How will you face your fear?