Finding Winter

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I have had writer’s block, finding nothing about the lackluster weather to inspire me.  The frequent sunshine has been nice, but seeing how it is still January, rain instead of snow is disheartening.  The last three days, I’ve been listening into the Impeachment Hearings, disheartening in an entirely different way.  I guess you could call it the January Blues.

But, we had a break in things with our trip to Chico Hot Springs.  It was mild with skimpy snow in Pray, Montana, but we drove into Yellowstone one day, and at the point where the road was closed for the winter season, they had groomed a trail for skiing.  The temperature was in the mid-twenties, and there was a misty sort of light snowfall, and not a skiff of breeze.  On the drive into the Park,  we passed herd after herd of bison, and a small gathering of large elk bulls, peacefully lying on a hillside, majestic with their enormous antlers.  They are true sculptural works of art.  We parked at the road’s closure, and I snowshoed while the others skied in the set tracks, up a gentle climb through the trees, with the canyon and river on one side, steam rising up from the hot springs below.   It was so quiet.  We saw tracks of snowshoe hares, coyote, and even wolf scat.  At the place we had parked the car, a herd of bison grazed right next to the road.  We could hear their grunts, watch how they move their enormous heads back and forth to clear snow in search of food.  To be so near this powerful creature, is to understand it as a spirit animal to Native Americans, and its holiness is unmistakable.  It was a wonderful way to find some Winter.

Now, we are back home to highs in the 40’s, mix of rain and snow showers, and sun here and there.  I’ve been so bored in reading our NOAA forecast that I’ve begun to follow the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s weather blog, which Joy forwarded to me, named Weather and Sea–what a thoroughly romantic title.  I love today’s forecast:

Northern Baltic, Sea of Åland, Sea of Archipelago and Sea of Bothnia

West to northwest 5-10 m/s. After midnight becoming west to southwest and somewhat increasing, after midnight 7-12, on Northern Baltic in the morning up to 14. Good vis, by night on Sea of Bothnia local rain or sleet.

When I googled a map, the Sea of Bothnia is at the north end of the Baltic Sea, separating Sweden and Finland.  One month from today, we’ll be even farther north than the Sea of Bothnia, on the Arctic Circle line, in Rovaniemi, Lapland.  Joy has already bought the train tickets.  Be careful what you wish for?!

In the meantime, being near the Yellowstone bison reminded me of a quote from Crowfoot, a Native American orator in the mid 1800’s.   I’ve referenced his words on this blog in the past, during other times when I’ve been ungrounded and unsettled, and uncertain of what it’s all about, and when I need to be reminded of what’s important.

“What is life?  It is the flash of a firefly in the night.  It is the breath of a buffalo in the Wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”


Staying warm

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Parts of Montana are about to get a winter’s blast the likes of which hasn’t been seen in over a decade.”  (That did sound a bit Trumpian in its grandiosity.)  “Northwest Montana could get intense snowfall, but everyone can expect drastically colder temperatures for the forseeable future.”  NOAA forecast 01.11.20

This didn’t happen over the week end as expected.   It did get quite cold, but there was but a skiff of snow.  I think we all expected it would be THE weather event, that the tide had changed, and now it would be serious Winter.  It is in the mountains, but we were relatively unscathed here in the Valley.   When I went for a walk this morning, it was lightly snowing at 18 degrees.   The geese overhead sounded cold, and a deer family was bedded down under a big Doug Fir, but every now and then, I could see a patch of blue sky.  They say it will be sunny tomorrow, and nothing major is in the forecast for the remainder of this week, nor the week beyond.

It adds to that January feeling of being on pause, in limbo, just waiting–for something.  Maybe a big snow storm, a week in Hawaii, the arrival of Spring.  I was out on our dock the other day, looking out to the sailboat mooring ball, and thought how LONG it feels until summer time.  It wasn’t until the third week of January, last year, when winter truly arrived here, and by March, the lake had frozen over.  There is so much of winter yet to unfold…and, we have a trip to Finland late in February.  I think one must be mindful about what you are waiting for in mid-January.

And, yet, just a month from now, there will be that unique February light.  No matter how cold it is, how deep is the snow, that light lets you know Winter’s grip is invisibly weakening.  The turn of the earth towards the sun can now be seen.  Then, suddenly it’s March.  I have selfies from last March, of me sitting in a parka on our bedroom porch, soaking in sunshine, and the frozen lake in the background.   It goes fast, it really does.  I think it’s best to just hunker down into January, let it be.   We’ve got a trip over to Chico next week, joining the Millers in the hot springs pool with snowflakes, hopefully, overhead.  And, with Finland next month, I’ve been looking at travel sites for Lapland,  wondering if maybe we should all take the train up there, and go on one of those husky dog sled rides through the forest at the Arctic Circle.   In the meantime, there are so many ways to stay cozy and warm in January.

On one of my favorite blogs, brainpickings, by Maria Popova, she shared a poem by the author, Neil Gaiman.  Gaiman is an ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and, as part of its emergency winter appeal for Syrian refugees, he invited his twitter followers to submit their memories of warmth in winter time.  Using their words, he created the lovely poem, What you Need to be Warm.  He reminds us of how to stay warm, and to know how lucky we are to be warm, in this coldest season.

by Neil Gaiman

A baked potato of a winter’s night to wrap your hands around or burn your mouth.
A blanket knitted by your mother’s cunning fingers. Or your grandmother’s.
A smile, a touch, trust, as you walk in from the snow
or return to it, the tips of your ears pricked pink and frozen.

The tink tink tink of iron radiators waking in an old house.
To surface from dreams in a bed, burrowed beneath blankets and comforters,
the change of state from cold to warm is all that matters, and you think
just one more minute snuggled here before you face the chill. Just one.

Places we slept as children: they warm us in the memory.
We travel to an inside from the outside. To the orange flames of the fireplace
or the wood burning in the stove. Breath-ice on the inside of windows,
to be scratched off with a fingernail, melted with a whole hand.

Frost on the ground that stays in the shadows, waiting for us.
Wear a scarf. Wear a coat. Wear a sweater. Wear socks. Wear thick gloves.
An infant as she sleeps between us. A tumble of dogs,
a kindle of cats and kittens. Come inside. You’re safe now.

A kettle boiling at the stove. Your family or friends are there. They smile.
Cocoa or chocolate, tea or coffee, soup or toddy, what you know you need.
A heat exchange, they give it to you, you take the mug
and start to thaw. While outside, for some of us, the journey began

as we walked away from our grandparents’ houses
away from the places we knew as children: changes of state and state and state,
to stumble across a stony desert, or to brave the deep waters,
while food and friends, home, a bed, even a blanket become just memories.

Sometimes it only takes a stranger, in a dark place,
to hold out a badly-knitted scarf, to offer a kind word, to say
we have the right to be here, to make us warm in the coldest season.

You have the right to be here.


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“In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.”
–  Christina Rossetti

It snowed a tad yesterday, and snow is predicted every day for the remainder of the week, but it’s hard to take it too seriously with temperatures hovering just above the freezing mark.  Today’s forecast calls for a 100% chance of rain.  Temperatures in the teens are forecasted by week’s end, and a genuine Arctic front is possible next week, but we’ll see.  Life is uncertain.

I’ve always thought of January as a pause month–a time-out after the flurry of Christmas, a chance to reset.  With Fletcher off to Seattle on yesterday’s early flight, all that’s left behind from the family’s visit is their important documents box, the bins with each of the kids’ mementos, and a bag of boots which were too large to squeeze into the suitcases headed for Finland.  The house is now quiet and empty.  Someone in my yoga class yesterday asked if I was going home to start washing and ( incredulously, to most) ironing all the sheets.  I said, no, I’m just going to rest for a while, “sort it out”, as the Brits like to say.

I’ve just been drinking tea, looking at the water pouring off the roof, reading books, and catching up on some of the lovely blogs I follow from people in faraway places.  I’m on hold, for a change in the weather, a new pattern, that moves me forward into Winter’s Time.  To be clear, I have not minded one bit that our steep road is without ice, and, we just bought a new/used car, and are waiting for the Finnish studded snow tires on order.  It seems like we are in limbo, stuck in place, not sure of what will happen next.  That’s how it feels in the world writ large, and it’s one of those times when it’s frightening to open up the computer in the morning to the day’s breaking news.  I can’t control that, anymore than I can control the weather.  But, maybe if the weather would just change, if there was bitter cold and we were buried in snow, safe at home next to the cozy fire, things would be different.  Winter’s wolf at the door is something I know how to reckon with.  One can only hope…

I escape into these charming blogs.  There’s a young woman who writes from her little cabin in the woods of Nova Scotia, and she begins her January entry:

” If I could choose my favourite types of days throughout the year the first, would be a good snow storm (followed by warm spring days and crisp fall days).  Some years I feel cheated by winter.  How dare you not give us more snow! But, to be content all I need is a day like today with the flakes falling consistently leaving us stranded in our homes, trees heavily weighed by the wet snow.   It was wonderful!  I packed a thermos of green tea, my knits for the shop, a camera and headed out to see a transformed world.  One where magic undoubtedly underlines every living and inanimate being.”

So very Anne (with an E) Green Gables.  And, isn’t it lovely to see the world this way.  Another faraway blog I follow comes from Great Britain.  The writer is a famous architect (I have both of his books) and he posts photographs of incredible beauty wherever he goes, from his little bothy by the sea in Scotland, an ancient chapel in Dorset with light streaming over the pews, to the interiors of England’s most spectacular architectural wonders.  On his January post, “The Turn of the Year”, he writes:

“The slow, gentle rotation of life carries on – and as I’ve thought for ever and ever now, some things get worse, most things don’t change that much at all, and just every now and again – some things really do get a great deal better. It’s easy to lose sight of that in the world in which we find ourselves.”

One can only hope…



The New Year

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“The old year dies and we face the new year as though it were an entity, new as a newborn babe. A new calendar with twelve leaves, one for each month. Something in us, some need for the specific, the orderly, the mathematical exactitude, calls for such demarcation. Yet any year, regardless of arbitrary time, is like a circle; you can start at any point upon it and, following the circle, you come back to that point. Our year, our circle, happens to be a cycle of the seasons, planting, growing, reaping, resting; and thus it is a part of the earth, the soil and the flowing waters as well as of the stars by which it is gauged…. And year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” ~Hal Borland (1900–1978), “The Tomorrows,” 1952 December 30th

I always have a visceral response the first time I write the date of a new year, as it answers the ‘call for a demarcation’.  I know that it’s all a circle, the inevitable cycle of Nature, but it seems like there is the opportunity to do it better–‘a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.’  Awake after a ten hour sleep, I welcome the fresh new page this morning.  We were up at 3:00 a.m. yesterday, the final day of 2019, to drive Joy and her family, and their giant bags holding six months of clothes and supplies, for life in Finland.  As I write early this morning, they are still in the air.  After an entire Christmas holiday with no snow, no change in the weather each day, the roads were horrific in the dark, freezing rain yesterday.  Ice covered the highway, obscuring the white and yellow lines, and with nary a streetlight for the first half an hour, it was a slow and treacherous caravan.  We arrived in time, nonetheless, and oh how my heart ached as we hugged them goodbye and watched them wheel all that luggage through the sliding glass doors.  Don drove their car back, and I followed him in mine, on the sad trek home in the dark, icy morning.  Fletcher was still sleeping, but he hit the road at 9 a.m. for the seven hour drive to Billings, to celebrate New Years with his old friends.  I had been glued to the road reports across the state from the time we returned from the airport, and things had improved for his journey.  I look forward to his return this week-end, yet another goodbye at the airport Monday, when he flies back to college.

With Don off skiing, the house was empty yesterday, and filled with dreadful loneliness, mixed in with mourning for the decades of my life, now long gone.   I took down the tree and all the Christmas decorations.  It reminded me of how I always re-decorated the girls’ bedrooms the second they were off to college, scrubbing them clean, like I did my old iPad, which I gave Duncan to take to Finland.  It’s as if I need to make a clearing for something new to arrive, whatever that may be.  By nightfall, I was exhausted, depleted, with red and puffy eyes, revealing a day of tears.  All the girls had touched base by then, including a family photo Joy sent from LAX, as they boarded Finnair.  Goodbye and farewell 2019.

On this very first day of a new year, a new decade, NOAA writes in their forecast:  “Messy winter weather of snow, freezing drizzle, rain and icy roads.”  I do love the word “messy”–thinking that is a great way to describe this business of living and loving and moving on.  But, I’m ready for a change–a good old-fashioned snowstorm of light and fluffy snow, which creates soft and gentle mounds, and covers us over in quiet stillness.   Or, one of those cold snaps, on a clear blue-sky day, where you can see ice crystals in the air.  In Winter–Notes from Montana, Rick Bass describes such a day as “crystals which collide in the breeze and make a faint tinkling sound, like chimes, like glass clinking, a magical sound.”    You never know–it’s a new year, a new chance.


By Jackie Kay

Remember, the time of year
when the future appears
like a blank sheet of paper
a clean calendar, a new chance.
On thick white snow
You vow fresh footprints
then watch them go
with the wind’s hearty gust.
Fill your glass. Here’s tae us. Promises
made to be broken, made to last.

Winter Solstice

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“Where should I look to see signs of the solstice in nature?  Everywhere.  For all of Earth’s creatures, nothing is so fundamental as the length of daylight.  After all, the sun is the ultimate source of light and warmth on Earth.”  Earth&Sky

I’ve been clearing the basement to make room for Fletcher to sleep down there over Christmas.  It’s cold up in the guest cabin (and, no Wi-Fi), the rest of the family are in the upstairs guest rooms, and in recent years, he seems to be quite content there with an aero-bed.  There’s a TV monitor where he can hook up his xbox,  and when the adults begin to shut down at night over their last splash of whiskey, he makes his popcorn in the microwave and disappears down the stairs.  After he left last summer, Cormac, at age 12, decided it was his time to claim the space.   Actually, he alternated between nights in the dormitory room, and the basement, but he, too, is growing up at lightning speed.

Other than the ping-pong table, the basement is just full of stuff stacked on metal shelves.  Our spinning bikes are there, parked in front of the TV monitor.  And, years ago, we put big brightly colored foam squares on the floor to define a play area for the little kids.  Who, amongst us, does not have childhood memories of being sent to the basement to play, relieving the adults of racket and mayhem.  In my cleaning up, it was time to get rid of another bin of outdated toys, and make room for more seating, so more people can do that X-box thing.   Some time ago, the riding vehicles which zoomed around the perimeter of the basement, wheels falling off, steering wheels broken, went to Salvation Army.  The Barbie dolls are gone and Sarah’s old American Girl dolls and trunk are stored in an upstairs closet.  Basically, all that was left was the basket of trucks, cars, airplanes, emergency vehicles, and lots of motorcycles.  Fletcher was the motorcycle guy–I cannot believe how many little motorcycles have roared around this house through the years.  I loaded up my car with the little vehicles, destined for a thrift store, and over the past few days, as I drove up and down our bumpy road, sirens and bells started going off in the back of the car (how do those batteries last so long?!), reminding me I still had not made the drop-off.  I have to confess I’ve been delaying.  I’ve been telling myself that I need to take the time to select the right thrift store, one with the best chance of delighting a child for Christmas, but I’ve rather enjoyed hearing those old sounds, as I’ve bounced up and down the road.   At last, I dropped them off yesterday morning at Bigfork’s Reloved Thrift Store, thinking they might look festive in their big display window, trimmed in garland and colored fairy lights.

The Winter Solstice is today, and we’ll do our customary walk out on the north edge of the lake, to just be present, as the last of the light fades into the longest night. There’s no snow this year, and plenty of sunshine, 50 degree temperatures, which feels so strange.  I went out there a few days ago, in time for the 9:00 sunrise over the mountain range, and watched as the sun spread across the packed sand, and reflected in the thin ice at water’s edge.  I stayed for nearly an hour, soaking in the wonder of that light, grateful we can count on its return.  The solstice is always a time of letting go, to focus on stuff that no longer serves us, to open up energy for what we may need at this time in our lives.  These long dark nights create a space to reflect on all of this, and as my years on this Earth grow shorter, it seems essential.  At bedtime, we will leave a candle burning on the dining room table, to light the dark night, and sometime after the blue twilight of morning, the sun is rising, whether we can see it or not.

There is, I have heard, a little thing called sunrise, in which the sun reverses the process we all viewed the night before. You might assume such a thing as mythical as those beasts that guard the corners of the earth, but I have it on the finest authority, and have, indeed, from time to time, regarded it with my own eyes.”
Lauren Willig, The Garden Intrigue


House at Pooh Corner

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Christopher Robin and I walked along
Under branches lit up by the moon.
Posing our questions to owl and eeyore
As our days disappeared all too soon.
But I’ve wandered much further today than I should
And I can’t seeem to find my way back to the wood.
So, help me if you can I’ve got to get
Back to the house at Pooh corner by one.
You’d be surprised there’s so much to be done,
Count all the bees in the hive,
Chase all the clouds from the sky.
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh.
Winnie the Pooh doesn’t know what to do,

We got home from the Puget Sound Thursday, in time for me to settle myself back in with a walk on the river trail in 45 degree temperatures.  Oh it was good to be back.  Whidbey Island is one of my soul-places, but that didn’t keep me from getting a lump in my throat when we drove away in the morning dark last Saturday as “The House at Pooh Corner” song played on the The Children’s Corner program of our public radio station.  I thought, oh no, I can’t leave–‘I must count all the bees in the hive and chase all the clouds from the sky.’  But, as is usually the case, a long quiet drive over hill and dale gives my heart a chance to  catch up, and in just 8.25 hours, we were on the ferry and I rolled down the window to smell sea air in blue twilight, and all was right in my little world.

It was lovely to be on the island at Christmas time.  We stayed at an inn on the water, next to a long pier, which was lined with colored fairy lights that twinkled in the water.  We had a wonderful hike on Ebey’s Landing with a quiet sea down below us, and in the evening, ‘under branches lit up by the moon,’ I saw the last full moon of this decade.  The decade is coming to an end, and all certainly does not feel right in this world.  We’re running out of time to save the planet we are destroying.  There is unrest and upheaval across the globe, hatred of others in unashamed full view.  And, in these last days leading up to Christmas, who cannot flinch with sadness, remembering Sandy Hook seven years ago today.   I suppose past generations experienced the same anxiety when each decade came to a close–after all, we only get so many of them in our short lifetimes.  Maybe this is just the nature of things.

The Earth&Sky blog describes the Long Night Moon as “a wonderful nocturnal sun, giving us a much appreciated reprieve in the season of diminished daylight.”  Back home, the remains of the full moon have made it bright out my window, all through the long cold night.  Lying awake in the stillness, unable to sleep, I know I need focus on the light and not the darkness.  December, by design, is meant to cheer us up as we move to the end of the year.  December (n):  a month of lights, snow and feasts; time to make amends and tie loose ends; finish off what you started and hope your wishes come true.”  We decorated the outdoor trees today, and I added the Santas to the mantle and table tops.  Just one week from today is the Winter Solstice, and the light will slowly return, and a few days later, all of my Billings family will pile into this house, at my own Pooh Corner, as we celebrate Christmas with one another.  I feel blessed to finish this decade with love and togetherness, and, in that, there is always hope, as the story begins anew.


December, 2019

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December is here.  It’s three degrees outside this morning, and we are in that brief moment of time when ice skaters can find clear, solid ice, with no snow, on small lakes.  The neighbor’s pond looks good, but it could easily be gone tomorrow.  In between checking on the ice, Don spent the Thanksgiving holiday removing a big tree which fell on the guest cabin roof, after the East Wind roared down the slope.  With our road blocked by another fallen tree, and the highway open only to local traffic, I’ve had quiet days at home.  It was just the two of us this holiday–we were grateful none of our family members were here, asleep in the guest cabin, when the enormous Douglas Fir came crashing down!  Don came in regularly to warm up in the house which was filling up with the smell of roasted turkey, and I put Christmas decorations on the dining room chandelier, and centered the stained glass fairy light window in the kitchen pantry.  By the time the cork was popped on the champagne, Venus and Jupiter were shining brightly in the sky, and there was a beautiful fingernail moon.  It was a slow and peaceful day at our house, filled with much love and gratitude.

Now, we get ready for the Solstice and Christmas, on a cold, gray day.  The tree is decorated, the wreath is made, and we settle into the darkness, with sparkling fairy lights and candles to cheer things up.   After taking a break from the news over Thanksgiving,  I’m back to reading how all is not right with the world.  It’s going to take some vigilance, some intention, to keep spirits bright in these December days with dim light and long dark nights.  In the past few months, I’ve been alternating my serious-read books with classic children’s literature.  The Little Prince and Charlotte’s Web are guaranteed to soothe one’s heart and soul, in the midst of the despair we feel for this blue planet we are destroying.  And, reading The Wind in the Willows, with a cup of tea next to the fire, is a lovely escape, a tiny moment of enchantment, as Rat and Mole, in the rapid nightfall of December, wistfully look into the windows of a cozy cottage.   They have a way of looking at the world with such kindness, and whole-heartedness, one can’t help but feel softer around the edges.   In twenty days, we will have reached another Winter Solstice, and the light will oh so slowly, slowly, begin to return.  It’s quite astonishing, really, that in the midst of our losses, changes, our fears and sadness, we are guaranteed that on December 21st, the sun comes back to us.

“The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into the dark world without. Most of the low latticed windows were innocent of blinds, and to the lookers-in from outside, the inmates, gathered round the tea-table, absorbed in handiwork, or talking with laughter and gesture, had each that happy grace which is the last thing the skilled actor shall capture–the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of observation. Moving at will from one theatre to another, the two spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of wistfulness in their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock out his pipe on the end of a smoldering log.”

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

A bluebird day in November

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I’m sure there have been sunny, cloudless days here late in the month of November, but I can’t remember the last one.  We left Chico yesterday morning, in clear 13 degree temperatures, and drove from the east side of the divide back over to our western valleys, with nary a cloud in the sky and temperatures above freezing.  We could see some stratus clouds up north, left from the morning fog over our lake, but even they had dissipated by the time I sat by the water with Chatpeau, to watch the sun drop over the western mountains.  At blue eventide, I sat by the fire in our cozy living room and watched Venus and Jupiter appear in the sky.  A splendid homecoming.

Chico Hot Springs was as warm and soothing as it always is during these cold months.  There is, perhaps, no better way to catch up with old friends than sitting in the hot pool, looking up the hillside to bluebird skies in front of the Crazy Mountains.  We catch up on our families, friends, and tell our stories.  Because we are getting old, we know how important this is, and our bones love the hot water.  In those two days, I was steeped in warm memories I have of Chico, over 30 some years, and thought of the times I played with our Billings grandkids in the water, when they were little, now so many years ago.  They were very much on my mind–not only because of our history together at Chico–but because I knew the family was moving out of their childhood home.  Joy posted photos on Facebook of their house, saying goodbye to the place where they had raised their babies.  Fletcher has already left for new adventures in college, but there was a photo of Duncan in his now-bare bedroom, and one of Anna in hers.  And, a photo of the emoji dormer room, where Duncan and Anna, and their friend, Sydney, found solace together, after their carbon monoxide poisoning in that one cold, dark winter, on the precipice of New Years.  The family healed, and moved forward into the future, and is about to set sail on an adventure to Finland for six months, on the eve of yet another New Year.

We are nearing the time to close down this year.  For those of us with good fortune, it has been filled with love and happiness, but, also–especially as we get older– inevitable aches and pains, sorrows and losses, and the acknowledgement of our vulnerability.  A friend recently told me that she had lost seven friends to death this last year, and there are those in our midst who must brave the future with unbearable losses.  In the darkness of November and December, I think it would be helpful to have an emoji dormer room, where we could sit and look at the icons pasted on the wall, which reflect the crying, laughing, fear, anger, confusion, despair, and love, which we’ve experienced through the year.  Just to review it all, sit with it, sort it out, and then, at the New Year–with enough hope and courage–we could gently sweep up the pieces of broken glass, and move on to our next adventure, or, perhaps, just another bluebird day, a sunset over the water, or twinkling planets in a clear night sky.

…”The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.”  David Whyte, Consolations


Moving through November

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“The house was very quiet, and the fog—we are in November now—pressed against the windows like an excluded ghost.” E.M Forester

“The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year,
Of wailing winds, and naked woods, and meadows brown and sear.”
–   William Cullen Bryant

‘In November you begin to know how long the winter will be.”   Martha Gellhorn

“In summary, conditions for the Northern Rockies are anticipated to revert to the recent wet and unsettled character of late.  No real large scale pattern change is evident in the extended forecast.”  NOAA forecast 11.14.19

We are in the heart of November now, the melancholy days.  In the dense morning fog, NOAA’s summary of the weather matches my mood.  Everything is wet and slushy and life, itself, feels unsettled, with no large scale pattern change in the extended forecast.  In November, a big gray cloud covers the valley, creating an inversion of dripping fog on the warmer days, and ice on the cold ones.  It was a jolt to fly home from California into a snow storm, on roads instantly turned to ice.  Thankfully, it was short lived and by the next morning, the snow and ice had turned back into water.  The dehumidifier is turned on in the garage to soak up the slosh accumulating on the concrete floor.

November is also the month of thanksgiving–just because we’ve made it this far, if nothing else comes to mind.  Yet, even Eeyore can find gratitude in the snowy freezing months:

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“And freezing.”
“Is it?”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”
A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner (1928)

I had the house to myself last evening and started the fire early.  I turned off the Impeachment news, the school shooting story, and lit the candles, and with a kitty cat on my lap, opened one of the four books which had arrived while we were in California.  (I’ve lived here long enough to know what’s required in the dark, cold months.)  I glanced out the window at one point to see rays of the sun, for the first time all day, and not long thereafter, Venus appeared between streaks of clouds.  I watched with a few long, slow breaths, and then the clouds closed over the bits of light in the sky, and all was dark again.  In the middle of the long night, awakening from restless dreams, the Beaver Moon illuminated the dense fog out my window, and all was white and blank outside, and it felt like morning would never come.  But, it does, if we are lucky.  We get another chance to be surprised by bits of light, and, if we are really paying attention, find a solace of sorts, in the quiet fog which shrouds us, when all the world feels in disarray.



halloween - 111.02.19

Everybody said it was one of the coldest Halloweens they can remember.  It probably wasn’t, but with the early blast of arctic air we had at the beginning of the week, and the leaves flash-frozen on the trees, it did seem unusually bitterly cold.  Yesterday, the first day of November, on an icicle sunny morning walk, crisply frozen yellow leaves stood upright in the snow.  I thought of that children’s game, freeze tag, and imagined the fallen leaves blowing across the ground, and then frozen in their tracks, as the cold front came down upon them, yelling, “freeze!”  We’ve had gorgeous late afternoons in which the sun has risen above the lake fog, flooding our living room in bright white light.  You have to sit with your back to it or you’ll be blinded.  And the new moon has been particularly spectacular, hanging first as a thin fingernail over the water, and last night, a yellow crescent, casting light all the way across the lake.  I could see it from my bed when I went to sleep, and, there is, perhaps, no softer way to let go of the day and move into the dark night.

And, dark it is, as we have now passed the midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice.  The time change happens tonight, and thank goodness there will be more light in the morning for us early-early risers.  But, evenings will descend upon us quickly, and it’s the time of year when I always scurry home if I’m out and about, to get the fire going, the soup on the stove, and light the candles before all is black out the windows.  I’ve been dragging my feet in letting go of October, greedy for every single golden day before the gray cloud of November presses down upon us.  But, as often seems to happen once it turns into November, I’m ready to let it go, give in, and settle into this new season of wool blankets, fairy lights at the windows, candles on the table, stacks of books by my chair, and move into the old story of the darkest night.


Show’s over, folks. And didn’t October do
A bang-up job? Crisp breezes, full-throated cries
Of migrating geese, low-floating coral moon.
Nothing left but fool’s gold in the trees.
Did I love it enough, the full-throttle foliage,
While it lasted? Was I dazzled? The bees
Have up and quit their last-ditch flights of forage
And gone to shiver in their winter clusters.
Field mice hit the barns, big squirrels gorge
On busted chestnuts. A sky like hardened plaster
Hovers. The pasty river, its next of kin,
Coughs up reed grass fat as feather dusters.
Even the swarms of kids have given in
To winter’s big excuse, boxed-in allure:
TVs ricochet light behind pulled curtains.
The days throw up a closed sign around four.
The hapless customer who’d wanted something
Arrives to find lights out, a bolted door.