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At 3 PM the sun sets behind the west ridge above our little town and I view the last of its rays in a red light show on the east ridge from my window. At the height of summer I stood on that ridge in the early morning hours to catch the delicate sunrise on its flowering slopes. The shorter days limit my outdoor activity and I’m on an inward trek. Around the winter solstice I shut down computer and TV screens, mute my phone with a do-not-disturb message and spend a few days focused inward to observe the subtler energies in my body .
The peak and valley of light-filled days are two polarities that hold life in between them. As I sit, I remember how, at the height of summer, I gathered the light in my fibers as I walked day in, and day out, sleeping in the outdoors. I remember how the resulting lightness of being stayed with me far into the fall. In the last month leading up to the winter solstice my body has felt dense, a denseness that no amount of exercise can shake. I seek warmth from food, hearth and covers. The occasional hike in the outdoors has been a snippet of summer, as the evergreens stand still on snowy ground, while dried grasses hang their heads around them. The absence of sound hangs telltale in the air, since most birds have gone south, water from snowmelt isn’t around yet to sing its gurgling song, and wind doesn’t find leaves to play with. An occasional crow cries out in the emptiness, stressing the hollowness of nature gone to sleep, curled in on itself as plants and animals survive the long cold nights as best as possible. I can only mimic nature and hurry home to the warmth of the hearth, soup warming on the stove, and, wrapped in a blanket, a meditation hour on my cushion.
Meditation is supposed to create inner peace. It’s difficult though, to make peace with the state of a world that rewards money and power, a government that leaves compassionate action to the less well-off. How to make peace with a world where the military doesn’t protect people from invaders, but instead, within its borders, burns people’s homes, blows up their villages because the villagers are of a different race and religion? It’s maddening to think of a world where the sick get care based on their income not their need.
And yet, I sit, to make peace with life. The images float through me, as I breathe in, breathe out. I feel powerless because I want to do something, fix the state of the world. In summer I gathered confidence in living as I walked. In fall I harvested that confidence and turned summer bounty into products, that line my pantry shelves. In the deep of winter I share my herbs, sauces and salves with my neighbors, tokens of a life force that keeps on living, keeps on healing. I sit and remember the wildfires raging through the forests and know that nature seeks balance, even if it kills in doing so.
I have made my peace with nature and trust that the world will continue despite the despicable actions of humans on the planet. I will live on watching my breath come and go until it will no more.
Let’s honor nature’s cycles and celebrate the return of the light first with a candle, then with increased outdoor activity. Let’s make peace by offering compassion toward people around us, and lets raise our voices about the injustices created by governments snared by money and power.