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Dreaming Spring from the Heart of Winter

December 16, 2014
Winter sunset with sundogs, at Turtle Crossing Farm.

Winter sunset with sundogs, at Turtle Crossing Farm.

Bringing wood down from the woodshed this morning I heard a few notes of Cardinal’s spring/mating song. He’s just tuning up or maybe just practicing or saying his piece. It’s not time yet. It’s been a few months, September maybe, since I’ve heard that simple melody, and now on a cold, rainy mid-winter day, that phrase ripples through me and assures me that indeed spring will come, and before too long. Too soon, even. At some point in life, we realize the seasons, including winter, process too quickly.

When I first learned to pay attention to such things, in my 30’s, I was shocked –shocked!- to discover that the early waves of spring start in January and February, indeed maybe I just today learned that they might start in December. The flower tips push out of the mulch bed and snow for weeks before they bloom. NCM_0052The tree buds begin to swell when the first warm days irrupt at the New Year. The smell of the soil starts to change. That one certain kind of rainstorm comes in February. There is the first thunder, sometimes over snow. The light comes back. The light comes back. The light always comes back.

Most people experience the emergence of spring as something that pops up over the course of a week or a few, in April (from l. abri- to open), but spring eases out of the folds of winter, bringing hope, being renewal for months before the flowers shout its arrival. The same kinds of fore/aft cross season integration occurs in all seasons of the year, indeed, in all seasons of life. When you learn to catch the subtle announcements of change that the world is sending us all the time, life takes on a steadier, more circular, longer-wave kind of form, less separate, more unified, more of-a-piece, more at peace.

But that cardinal song also reminded me of the way my love and I used to call to each other across the distance with a text or voice message with a Cardinal companion call: “Chip!” Cardinals strongly pair bond and keep in constant contact with their partner by intermittent calling, “chip” and responding, “chip.” And now she’s gone and I’m standing on a sere hillside in the fading sun and dreaming of the past and longing and the ways that hope and memory and sadness are sometimes all one thing. I go in and start the fire.

A bracing, deep winter gift from Gary Snyder:

For/From Lew

Lew Welch just turned up one day,
live as you and me. “Damn, Lew” I said,
“you didn’t shoot yourself after all.”
“Yes I did” he said,
and even then I felt the tingling down my back.
“Yes you did, too” I said—”I can feel it now.”
“Yeah” he said,
“There’s a basic fear between your world and
mine. I don’t know why.
What I came to say was,
teach the children about the cycles.
The life cycles. All other cycles.
That’s what it’s all about, and it’s all forgot.”

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