The temperature outside dropped to 18 degrees last night.
The whistling, sometimes moaning wind brought down dead tree limbs and even dead trees.
In the morning sun, evergreens glisten with a chill crispness, while all the deciduous trees, having yielded up their green disguises, reveal their true, naked structure, the true nature and shapes of things.
The wind, blowing fiercely, had for days been bringing down any last lingering dry leaves, forming a protective blanket for all the vulnerable plant roots near the earth’s surface. When these leaves decay through the winter, they will be recycled as compost for new plant life, later on.
Today bare branches and bent trees rub against each other in the wind, making a familiar, unique noise, a conversation, part apology, part disgruntled maneuvering for space. Inside my skin, I imagine my bones doing the same thing, creaking, stiff, stripped down as I often feel these days.
I move, now, mid-morning, move carefully on the icy ground, bent like the trees against the biting wind. I don’t like to be walking thus, for I feel concern for the broken shards of frozen grass I step on. I move slowly. No taking flight today for me. I notice the chilled arrest, for once, even of my flighty thoughts.
So I stand still, that I may hear any birdsong that yet flies in the face of potential death. And, though muted,bird songs are there.
I think with compassion of these birds and of all the trembling wild creatures in the woods, without a warm haven like my own. I can do nothing for them, but I check on our own cats tucked safely in the barn.
My fingers, stiff with cold despite thick gloves, are clumsy in carrying firewood from the shed to the house.
I salute respectfully the winter stillness that has been settling over me for weeks and has deepened now, not into an icy numbness, but rather into a natural living cycle of dormancy that will be essential to the birthing of the next springtime flush of creativity.
So, humming to myself, I connect to all the ancestors who came before me, sitting outside winter cares, or huddled around a winter fire, telling stories, or traveling across winter landscape on a trail of ters or terror, or cheerfully assembling in a little country church or community center for some winter ritual or festival or other.
Thus steadied by remembrance and reverence, I begin to sing gratitude as I refill with chunks of frewood the sturdy stove that has kept me warm and safe all through this winter’s night.
And I settle in. To think. To remember. To dream. To listen.
I am wintering.
The poet Nancy Wood captures wintering thus:
“…It is our quiet time.
We do not speak, because the voices are within us.
It is our quiet time.
We do not walk, because the earth is all within us.
It is our quiet time…”