January

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01.04.17

“No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.”
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

The Deep Arctic front arrived and as I look at the night-time forecasts, it flirts between -19 and -24, and let’s not even mention the windchill factor.  The subzero and single digit temperatures are lit up in red on the local Lutheran Church reader board as I drive by, just in case none of us has noticed.  Some of the ski areas are closing the next few record-setting days.  But, everybody knows, unless there is a white-out blizzard, you simply have to get outside, for even a tiny bit each day, or you could likely lose your mind during our northern winters.  Even if it’s just down to the water’s edge to look across the lake, and then look down to the south, and then up to the north.  It felt bleak there,  though the biting wind was over, and the weak sun cast a bit of shine in the gray.  There was a metallic smell, and somebody’s lawn chair had been swept up the lake and deposited on our beach.  It made me think of a shipwreck.

But, I looked up and could see the quarter moon moving in my direction.  An eagle was perched high in a tree nearby.  I followed tracks across the snow to see where the deer got water and where they returned up into the woods, miraculously finding food and shelter.   It was eerily still, and I remembered how last year I wrote here about keeping the wolf from my door during the month of January.  “One must have a mind of winter” Wallace Stevens tells us in his poem, The Snow Man.  You don’t just wake up with it, some January morning, as you crawl out from under wool blankets and down comforters and crank up the furnace.  No, there is a discernment required, and then a commitment to this winter’s mind.  It can be difficult some years.   But it really just begins with nothing too strenuous, and definitely not heroic.

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