Winter RestWinter Rest If you find yourself feeling a bit overwhelmed by the season, bundle up and visit your pond for a few minutes. Here's why.
By Beth Lahaie
From Thanksgiving through New Years Day, we humans seem to go into overdrive. We try to fill every waking moment to the brim with activities - shopping, cooking, more shopping, more cooking, a feast (or two or three), followed by parties, parties, parties. Everything else in nature slows down for a long winters rest. Grass stops growing and turns brown. Some animals curl up and hibernate; others migrate to warmer locales. Trees drop their leaves and become dormant. Annual plants die off. Fish get less active, eat less, and suspend in deep water. Ponds freeze over. In this phase of rest, life still goes on, but in a different and slower way. I like nature's way best, though it is hard for us people to pull off during the holidays.
However, late last autumn, a week before Thanksgiving, I took an afternoon off to rest before a frenzied week of preparations, feasting, and visiting family members. I sat in the sunlight in my back yard and noticed the tree in my neighbor's yard that hangs over my fence started dropping its brilliantly colored leaves of gold, orange, and maroon. The leaves fell slowly at first - one, two, three. Then more and more fell. Soon dozens of leaves dropped, each swirling in its final dance to the ground. Within thirty minutes the tree was completely bare. It was as though the tree could hardly wait to finish its autumn work and begin its winter rest.
My focus moved to the sweet gum tree in my own yard. Its leaves dropped over the course of several weeks. Well, most of them fell anyway. It never let go all of them and hung onto a dozen or so of its brown spiky seedpods. contemplated the difference between those two trees, I found myself wishing I could be more like my neighbors tree. How nice it would be to let go of everything I had clinging to me like so many Post-It Notes, and allow the wind to skitter scatter them away so my body, mind, and spirit could snuggle safe and warm deep inside for a long winters rest and be restored.
Like most people, I had a list of assorted things that caused me to fret. Some things were transient and would quickly disappear in a few days. For example, though the holidays loomed overwhelmingly before me, I knew the house would get cleaned and pies would be baked. Dry or moist, the Thanksgiving turkey would be consumed. Overnight guests would return to their homes and the following week I'd "deck the halls" and Christmas tree with my collection of ornaments, ribbon, and the precious treasures my children made over the years.
Other concerns on my list had been around for while - things like regret about a couple a lousy decisions, insecurities, doubts, failures, old resentments, and those labels assigned to me when I was young that I still chose to believe though I'd long since proven them to be false. I tended to hang on to these things just like my sweet gum tree stubbornly clung to a few of its leaves and seedpods.
I realized in that moment, I could, in fact, let go of those things on my list anytime I wanted. I didn't have to continue to carry them into my future, re-injuring myself and denying my soul the rest it longed to experience. I could release my grip, my focus, and allow everything to fade into serenity so my inner life could be like a reflection on a pond with no ripples.
I'd brought a book outside with me, WALDEN by one of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau (predecessor to all Pondmeisters). I flipped the book open to my bookmark and found the following passage about winter at Walden Pond:
Every winter the liquid and trembling surface of the pond, which was so sensitive to every breath, and reflected every light and shadow, becomes solid to the depth of afoot or afoot and a half so that it will support the heaviest teams, and perchance the snow covers it to an equal depth, and it is not to be distinguished from any level field. Like the marmots in the surrounding hills, it closes its eyelids and becomes dormant for three months or more. Standing on the snow- covered plain, as if in a pasture amid the hills, I cut my way first through afoot of snow, and then afoot of ice, and open a window under my feet, where, kneeling to drink, I look down into the quiet parlor of the fishes, pervaded by a softened light as through a window of ground glass, with its bright sanded floor the same as in summer; there a perennial waveless serenity reigns as in the amber twilight sky, corresponding to the cool and even temperament of the inhabitants. Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.
I loved the synchronicity. Here I was contemplating the need to let go and find rest in the midst of a hectic time of year and also chose to read a book written over a hundred fifty years earlier that reminded me to find the quiet waveless parlors of winter and take time to discover the places right in my own little corner of the world where heaven may be found. It might be in my kitchen, on a walking trail through graying woods, or on the banks of a frozen pond. And if I cannot find such a place, perhaps it's because my calendar is too full or I've not let go of enough to find my own winters rest. Regardless, I've always found that spending some quiet time of reflection by one of my favorite ponds begins the sloughing off process, especially in the middle of the hectic holidays.
If you find yourself feeling a bit overwhelmed by the season, bundle up and visit your pond for a few minutes. While you are there, let go of a handful of the things that nag at you (you can always gather them back up later if you want). You'll be refreshed and ready to celebrate. Happy Holidays, Pondmeisters!
Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine
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