Not ‘still’ winter – perhaps the deepest transformation

When I look out at the white expanse of frozen lake, I no longer see winter as a small death, a time of darkness, a pause for breath.

I see a continual and wondrous process of transformation!

Ice is not static, but constantly changing.

In early winter’s deep cold, it was confusing that, this year, the ice seemed slower to come in. But with the cold came blankets of snow.

Each rock or dock intruding into the ice creates its own disruption.

Sometimes there is just whiteness, sometimes pools of lavender; sometimes the smoke that isn’t smoke billows around the islands. There are times of diamond brightness. Sometimes the world disappears.

Even in the heart of winter, somewhere, unseen, life goes on beneath the surface, even if I only know this by the presence in spring of turtles, frogs and fish.

The slow seeping of water bubbling out of the ground seeks its way through the ice creating a path – or a fault line?

A fallen oak leaf, absorbing light rather than reflecting it like the white surface that surrounds it, carves out space around itself.

 

What astonishes me is not just the overt shift from the fluidity of water to the apparent solidity of ice; nor is it the the purity and clarity of unbroken white, the illusion of stillness.

It is the awareness of a profound process of constantly occurring change.

Perhaps winter’s is the deepest transformation of all.

 
Snow-down

Snow Meditation 

Snow falls silently as large crystals,
each, unimaginably, different, unique;
remains like goose-down,
softly blowing.

With thaw, the feathers congeal.

Freeze creates of them
a crisp shell,
hard and resonant.

Then, nothing.

March 2018

Dancing down the drive to snow music

Snow music
 
Ice crust

My feet 
find a beat
on the drum-tight shell
of ice-topped snow;

a crisp rattle,
then a tinkling, skittering
whisper of melody.

And I dance –
to the song that I hear
and to hear the music
of my dance!

February 13, 2018

 

Yes, for the last two days I have been dancing joyfully down our drive, delighting in the crispness of the air and beneath my feet and the unfamiliar soundscape!

Nature, connection and homecoming

Our first year of living in rural Ontario has been truly special. I have had a sense of homecoming, of re-connecting more fully with nature. And, for me, that connection is the source of much wonder and joy.

Fall at the lake

So I put together a book, A year in the life of The House at Turtle Pond. A kind of journal, it seeks to capture our response to the newness of living through the turning of this first year, looking out over Cranberry Lake on the Rideau system in Southern Ontario, Canada.

It speaks to a deep connection with nature, the rhythm of the seasons and the interconnectedness of internal and external realities.

I wrote it first and foremost so as not to lose sight of the newness as the years pass and familiarity potentially dulls our awareness. But it has been lovely to find that at least a few people find in it something to feed the soul. It makes it even more worthwhile!

The book

Below is a link to A year in the life of The House at Turtle Pond as it appears on the Blurb website. Here you can glance through a preview. If you happen to be interested in having a copy and live locally, please feel free to contact me direct. Blurb often offers discounts to the creator of a book, which makes it significantly more affordable.

By the way, it was our predecessors who named our wetland between the house and road Turtle Pond. And our neighbour noted that this was therefore The House at Turtle Pond,  like The House at Pooh CornerThis seemed apt, especially when I came across this:

And by and by Christopher Robin came to the end of things, and he was silent, and he sat there, looking out over the world, just wishing it wouldn’t stop.

A.A. Milne

 

What does nature mean to me? Why is it important?

I was ever a child of nature, integrally connected with the rhythm of the seasons and with a strong link between external and internal realities.

Nature’s place in my life is as a sweet familiar melody running through my living,
it speaks the language of my soul;

it connects my roots to the beating heart of Mother earth
and it centers me in ‘now’ and ‘am’;

it lifts me out of the mire of day to day concerns;
gifting me moments of deep knowing and insight;

even in my darkest days, it anchors me to wonder and joy,
lighting my way back home to my best self;

it roots me in awareness of the constancy of change, unafraid,
and threads the cycles of dying and rebirth within my being;

it enfolds me in a living silence, rich in mystery,
opens the door to realms of myth and magic;

it inspires me to watch, to note, to listen,
sating my senses;

it draws from me a life-affirming reverence,
a deep resounding ‘yes’!

 

Nature - a rhapsody in blue - jay and lake

 

I’m very excited to be embarking on an exploration into Nature’s Poetry. Even this afternoon’s first foray into the preparatory work for Session 1, beginning to look at my personal connection with nature, has been richly nourishing.

I have, over the last couple of years, felt the pull back to my writing roots, which started with poems before I could even put pen to paper (I was three years old). So this online course speaks both to my deep sense of return and re-connection to nature in living rurally and to rediscovering a mode of expression that faltered as I focused on career and family.

What a delicious luxury it is to be invited down a path along which poetry, both in the reading and the writing, can illuminate one’s inner landscape! 

I intend to do my best to follow Mary Oliver‘s instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

 

Gratitude and joy – an intimate relationship

(The first of three interconnected posts on gratitude)

I am increasingly inclined to think that joy and gratitude are close companions, engaged in a mutual dance of enrichment.

When we experience that moment of joy, whether at the birth of a child or in witnessing a beautiful sunset, is it possible to feel joy without a sense of gratitude?

Joy and gratitude for an Outouais Sunset

Perhaps gratitude can exist without joy, but I think ‘the practice of gratitude’ at the very least primes us to experience joy more readily.

So how do we define gratitude? The dictionary definition is simply ‘the quality of being thankful’. Robert Emmons, possibly the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, expands on this, describing it as an affirmation of goodness and a recognition that the sources of this goodness are outside ourselves (see his full definition at the University of California, Berkeley Greater Good website).

A hundred or so years B.C., Cicero argued that among virtues, gratitude is ‘the parent of all the others’, a virtue that begets other virtues. This is backed up by contemporary social scientists who contend that gratitude ‘stimulates moral behaviour’.

I experience gratitude as a state of being, one which provides the lens through which I choose to experience life. As with joy, I am conscious that gratitude is a practice that must be cultivated. I share the Buddhist perception that such a practice leads to the direct experience and awareness of the inter-connectedness of all of life and of the ongoing dynamic of giving and receiving. As well, it creates a context of abundance.

Gratitude also roots us more firmly in the moment. As the Chopra Centre puts it:

“gratitude brings our attention into the present, which is the only place where miracles can unfold. The deeper our appreciation, the more we see with the eyes of the soul and the more our life flows in harmony with the creative power of the universe.”
http://www.chopra.com/ccl/cultivate-the-healing-power-of-gratitude

Whilst gathering my thoughts for this post, the phrase ‘a state of grace’ flickered through my consciousness. Given that the words ‘gratitude’ and ‘grace’ share a common root, this is unsurprising. But what does this mean to our understanding of gratitude?  Vipassana (insight) meditation teacher Phillip Moffitt expresses this beautifully:

“This grace of conscious life, of having a mind that can know “this moment is like this,” is the root of all wonder, from which gratitude flows. The wonder, the mystery, is that you, like everyone else, are given this short, precious time of conscious embodiment in which you can directly know life for yourself.”
http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/articles/selfless-gratitude

(See also Grateful to whom? and Gratitude is good for you!)