If you live in the Northern hemisphere, especially above the 47th parallel, winter has settled in to stay for a while. Whether you hibernate, prefer denial, or embrace the season may depend on how cold it gets in your neck of the woods…
- Hibernate? You are a heat-seeker in all seasons, especially now, piling up the logs or blankets while dreaming of tropical beaches, staying indoors while waiting for winter to pass. Or you have already headed south so you can ignore winter more effectively.
- Live in denial? You walk (or run) hatless through the freezing air, relying on your car to get from one door to the next, and don’t even own a warm winter jacket or toque.
- Embrace the season? You are outdoors at every opportunity, enjoying the intensity of the winter sun and impossibly clear blue skies. You are probably a skier or skater or snowmobiler or snowboarder — or all of the above — and live for that squeaky sound the snow makes under your boots and the rush of cold air as you speed downhill or skate under the stars.
As for me, I’m all three (although my skiing and skating skills are nothing to brag about). And I will admit it: in some profound part of my spirit, I do love winter. I love the sudden joy of finding Orion watching from high overhead on dark bitter mornings. I love the sound of nothing made by falling snow on a windless night. I love how the fresh snow transforms my dull leafless city, sculpting every surface in sparkling white. I love the fact that I can witness the most wonderfully golden sunrises without having to wake at 5 am. I love that deliciously crispy ’ air which puts red in my cheeks and a sparkle in my eyes.
Now, if only I could remember all this when I wake up in mid-February in the middle of a deep freeze…!
Photo taken on Jan 10, 2015
Sometimes when I’m on the verge of waking, I linger on the edge of sleep, reluctant to relinquish that moment of possibility between dreaming and consciousness. In this moment, I feel anticipation and hope, I sense that something good might happen when the day begins. The closest word I can find to describe it is “madrugada”, a Spanish word meaning dawn or daybreak, or more literally, the hour before sunrise.
On many mornings, when I open my eyes and wake up, this moment vanishes; routine and responsibility rush in, and I push my dreams aside. But if I wake up early, in that hour (or two) before sunrise, I don’t have to rush into the day. I can sit for a moment and think about my day, my dreams, my desires, my disappointments. In the quiet of this madrugada, I can listen to God and be open to my heart. And I find that if I start the morning with stillness, I am better organized, better prepared, and better balanced as I head into my day.
As I look toward the future (now that I’ve passed the long-anticipated 50th birthday milestone), I realize it is this awareness of each day that is becoming most valuable to me. As much as I enjoy getting “stuff”, acquisition is not my goal; neither is career climbing or travel or fame. None of this will ever give me any satisfaction unless I know who I am, unless I can be whole and at peace in that moment between dreams and waking.
Photo taken on November 4, 2009
That combination of snow and rain on Friday night made for some horrible driving. I agree that the trees look really pretty.
I arrived home safely, but then managed to wedge the car into a snowbank, and with all that ice underneath, all the wheels could do was spin. I was so relieved when my partner remembered the old rug in the garage, and between the two of us, we managed to get it free again.
That high wall of snow and ice chunks left by the snowplow Saturday morning across our shared driveway made me want to cry. I almost cried again when our neighbour’s friend drove up with his plow to clear it.
We bundled up and took the dogs to the park yesterday, but it was so cold I wanted to turn around and go home again. But once we were in the shelter of the trees on the sunny side of the lake, it was warm again, and people were smiling, and the snow sparkled in the sun.
More snow is expected today, and more rain tonight. To be continued.
Photo taken on February 27, 2011
It’s raining today but I don’t want to show the rain. I want to show the black road glistening between white banks still tall from last week’s storm. I want to show the shards of icicles, half buried in the spongy snow. I want to show the chickadee, feathers fluffed against the cold, hopping from branch to branch. I want to show the inner life of the forest, the way the treetops hum and sway in the wind, the sheltered pockets beneath the wide-boughed spruce, the soft fragrance of cedar.
It’s dark today, but I don’t want to show the dark. I want to show the mystery of light.
Photo taken on January 6, 2011
I’m the kind of person who likes to sit and think. I have a very rich mental life in which I enjoy many adventures and have lengthy discussions with imaginary and not-so-imaginary people. In my mind, I am witty and wise, and the bon mots I tend to miss in real life are always ready on the end of my tongue.
Since I’ve been out of the work race the past six months, I have had lots of time to sit and think. I’ve discovered, to my delight, that I enjoy writing. I have been studying areas that interest me, like project management and website optimization. I have been working on my father’s Memoirs. I have been pondering life and the future direction of my career.
And I’ve been pleased to see that many career and work experts recommend that everyone, no matter how busy — especially if they are busy — set aside time in their day to enable mental processing and reflection. Since most people need time to get up to speed in the day, experts recommend scheduling time to think (or in GTD terms, do a “mental sweep”) in the morning.
People who set aside time every day to free their minds from their immediate tasks are better prepared for whatever may be on the horizon. The next time you feel pushed for time, push back. You’ll feel less stressed if you take a few minutes to just sit and think.
Photo taken on January 6, 2011
Yesterday, I saw a green arrow. Even though I have a good sense of direction, it’s easy to lose your bearings in the woods. So there we were; we were walking through the woods and then I looked up and saw this arrow pointing the way.
Last week, I received an email from an Ontario magazine offering to pay me to use one of my pictures. I had taken this photo in 2007; they found it on my Flickr stream, and it was what they were looking for.
So yesterday, feeling optimistic from the sale of this photo and buoyed up by your warm encouragement, an idea came bubbling to the surface. I put words to that change I have been afraid to face. I said, “What I need to do is start my own business.”
I can write, I can take photos, I can create newsletters and design communication materials. I have a whole range of skills that have to do with computers, social networking, strategizing and brainstorming. Although I will still need some other paid work to keep me going, maybe I can make some money on my own. Maybe I can, for once, be able to set my own schedule and do something I love.
I have a lot of work to do as I flesh out my ideas and figure out my next steps. But here is the green arrow, it says “go this way”. I will follow it even though I don’t know where it leads.
Photo taken on January 6, 2011
Do you see the hedge first, or the houses? Do you see the tiny yellow buds on the topmost twigs, or the green wreath decorating the door? As you walk by, do you notice which tidy post-war houses have their walkways freshly cleared of snow, or do you watch the late afternoon sun as it wraps the neighbourhood with yellow ribbons of light?
I know there’s work to be done and phone calls to make, items to check off my to-do list and projects to finish. But right now I’m busy. Right now I’m outdoors, feeling the cold air on my face, watching the dogs track unfamiliar scents from tree to telephone pole, and listening to the crunch of my boots on the snow-crusted sidewalk. For 30 minutes, nothing else matters more than being here. I don’t have a lot of time, so I want to make the most of it.
Photo taken on January 4, 2010