We’ve had our first serious snowfall of the winter. I love the cold and the snow and shoveling our driveway, in a silence of the other world, where people sleep deeply and the outside sounds are muffled. I cannot hear the cars and trucks on the highway. There are no children crying, no machines running, no dogs barking – no sound but the occasional clump of snow falling off the trees. I am alone, in the presence of nature and it fills me with an indefinable longing.
This week I’ve been thinking about the longing that strikes me, on occasion, to be something or somewhere other than what or where I am. I am yelling at my daughter, having the same conversation we’ve had for the last four years – “pick up your trail!” I am tired of this, tired of being the haranguing mother, tired of the look on her face that says she is somewhere else while this crazy woman rants at her about piddly shit. Even I am somewhere else, because I hear myself and think “that woman needs a vacation”.
I need perspective and to center myself. Mostly, I just need to go outside. Being outdoors is meditation to me. It is a window to something greater, a reminder that we do not exist in little houses with petty concerns, but are part of a whole.
For my daughter, being outside is being in a world ungoverned by adults and rules and a clock. She spends hours building forts, eating snow, sledding down the miniature hills in our yard. Occasionally, I’ll toss a snowball at her to remind her that I’m here, but other than that, we lose ourselves in the moment of just being. I work silently at my chores of clearing walks and drives. She lives in a world of her own design, sometimes just laying flat on her back in the snow, catching snowflakes on her tongue.
I took a writing workshop in college that gave an overview of American nature writers. I fell in love with Edward Abbey, Aldo Leopold, Barry Lopez, Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, and Gretel Ehrlich. They so eloquently express the sense of wonder that I intuitively feel, but find hard to describe. I could be magically transported to the Arctic or the desert by vivid descriptions that were emotive, but not falsely sentimental or anthropomorphic.
This is the gift of nature writers and photographers, to show us worlds we might not have explored or even realized were right under our noses. Here are some blogs that make me long for the wind:
Gin Getz Her writing and photographs are lyrically observational of the natural world. Every time I read one of her posts, I am reminded of the ebb and flow of seasons, and of the interconnectedness of humans and the wild.
23thorns He writes wonderfully fun and educational posts about critters of all kinds, but especially about those you wouldn’t want to find under your bed. His picture captions make me laugh every time.
When my daughter and I come back inside, stripping off our winter layers, I settle in for a hot cup of coffee and she snuggles in my lap, cold ear resting against my shoulder. I don’t see the clutter or the mess. I see life and grace and am grateful to be exactly where I am.