Desert Winter

When all is said and done, winter probably gets vote for favorite season. I say probably because it is a complicated concept to be definitive about.

A frequent topic here (eight blog posts so far), I enjoy exploring what winter means to me and how I embrace its annual season of renewal, rejuvenation, and quiet recharge of life’s batteries. Winter is not quite the same without the cold, the snow, the shift into staying inside more for warmth, often with blanket cuddling the lap, mug of hot cocoa in hand, and a good book to read despite the inevitable accidental nap encouraged by those three conspirators. Most years, it is a more subtle change of gears in the mind than a shift nudged into place by seasonal weather changes. This year, for me, winter is a season in the desert.

Don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter.
It’s quiet but the roots are down there riotous.

– Rumi

Winter for me typically means read more, relax more, or simply put, a slowed down pace of life to chill more (pun unintended). Most winters I embrace, without labeling it as such, the Danish tradition of hygge, or “coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”

It is definitely a time when I give myself permission to do less, and ease through the days more than usual to sip each moment. And I must confess, to me the winter image is one of a blazing fire inside and white blankets outside with those endearing snowflakes easing to the ground with little urgency. This year the only blazing I see are the marvelous winter sunrises a desert delivers.

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.

– John Steinbeck

This year I am still in my zone of seasonal renewal, albeit without the pleasant fire and white visuals. In the desert this winter, relaxing and renewing inside my camper van, I still have cherished memories of special winters past, ones with a fireplace blazing while outside nature’s en plein living winter artwork continues through the day. Those winters were not better than others without those two, but remain my halcyon memories. Winter is, as I choose to embrace it, is a state of mind and easily transportable to wherever one is, not just when the view outside takes on the look of a classic Norman Rockwell winter scene.

Yet winter’s renewing grace,
Its universal task,
Revives us all,
If we wear its mask.

– Gary Varner

Summer Solstice

Each year I typically recognize this milestone nature moment but rarely remember on the correct day! This time I finally noticed it was yesterday, June 20, officially although for the Northern Hemisphere it can range each year from June 20 to 23.

Traditionally, it’s a time to reflect on past seasons and new growth ahead. It’s the day the sun’s at its highest and from here it begins a slow, steady lowering toward winter. Not sure I really want to think about winter right now, but it’s part of our cycle (and I truly love winter, so not really complaining).

I could retell the history behind the Summer Solstice, but this morning’s DailyOM newsletter covered it well. I think I’ll be a wee bit lazy and just link to their post.

Hope you have sunny weather today and can spare some time to soak up some sunshine. Spend a few moments to reflect on past seasons and embrace your own anticipated personal growth in the days and months ahead.

Winter’s Artwork

One reason I like winter is the beautiful natural artwork created by weather. When the sun’s out, the sky’s cloudless, and the foliage and outdoor objects receive “brushstrokes” from an unexpected snowfall, the results are nature’s perfect art.

Despite the frigid temps, shock to the budding spring foliage and nest-building squirrels, and the traditional packing away of winter coats and gloves, the handful of days we get in Michigan during April’s (and May’s sometimes) late-winter white stuff bursts can be beautiful to admire. By afternoon, as typical, little evidence of this Winter Rockwell “painting” will remain.

To view larger photos, click on any to start a slideshow.

Fairy Landing Pads

I posted some Instagram images yesterday of mayapple plants that come up each spring, and how to me, they resemble fairy army tents in an encampment of some sort.

Today, on a typical April Michigan day, it was cold and showed! But the magical moment came after the perfect alignment of newly spun forest spider webs, the right temperature, and a snowfall of very tiny snowflakes.

So extending my metaphor from yesterday, seems to me like the fairy air force is setting up landing pads throughout the forest. Wonder if something’s afoot in the fairy world? (Click to open larger images.)

Sallymander

On today’s forest walk, I happened upon a mother and her two young kids. I’d seen them a couple times on different parts of the path, always stooped over with the mother explaining fungi on a fallen log or a footprint in the mud. The last time I walked past them was over by the pond, where the little girl was carrying a small green plastic box with something dark inside.

“Whatcha got there?” I asked.

“A sallymander!” the little girl said proudly.

“Where’d you find it?”

“Over there by the pond under a log!”

“What are you going to do with it?”

The girl paused, looked down at the salamander when her mother interjected, “We’re going to return it to the log where it lives.”

The little girl looked up at her mother, then down at the box, and finally saying (but not happily), “Yes, we’re going to put it back in the mud.”

I think the little girl hoped to take it home as a pet, and I’d asked the question hoping for Mom’s answer. Nature’s cool but its denizens belong in nature, not in a home container. Besides, I think salamanders are getting less common, so all the more reason to let it go.

We talked a bit more and I asked how easy it was to find these. “Pretty easy” mom said, as she lifted a few logs on the forest floor, with the second log having the other salamander above.

These particular woods by my house are ones I use for walking, rarely stopping to examine anything. Instead, I’m always moving forward to keep my pace up and hit my distance goals. When I visit other forests, I’m more apt to meander, or sit quietly and listen to nature’s sounds. I’ll often stop to meditate or journal, but there’s always time to stop and explore interesting things.

Today’s stop in the walking routine was a pleasant break, catching sight of a couple of salamanders and two kids excited about nature. A good day, all in all.