5 January 2016
And as with prayer, which is a dipping of oneself toward the light, there is a consequence of attentiveness to the grass itself, and to the sky itself, and to the floating bird. I too leave the fret and enclosure of my own life. I too dip toward the immeasurable. ~Mary Oliver, Winter Hours
Mary Oliver’s poems speak eloquently to me. I love feeling these words of hers on my own tongue. Something ineffable in me lifts a wing at the very idea she poses of leaving the frets and the enclosures, of dipping toward the immeasurable.
It is typical in January that the fog settles low over the dark, rich soil of the fallow fields of northern California’s central valley and the long view can disappear for days or weeks, replaced by soft, vague outlines and studies in shades of gray. The call of the geese and cranes that have migrated here for the winter warble and waver down through the fog, reminding me that so much of life is unseen. The leaves of the mighty oaks have dropped and the bronzy duff is slowly, quietly dissolving into the damp fertility that will nourish the tree’s coming year. It is a time that I want to hunker down.
Cycles that include deep and sustained periods of dormancy and restoration are built into nature’s rhythms. Rest periods that allow small and subtle but critical renewal.
Our cultural habitat doesn’t recognize the value of renewal. Business carries on 24/7. But we are living things, rooted in natural origins, connected in deep ways to the earth’s dirt and sky and tides. On a cellular level, I am imprinted with these rotations of seasons, the rhythms of nature that include flamboyant exuberance and quiet preening of self care. I know I need times for slowing down, turning inward. Times for reflection and re-creation.
In business as usual, I can lose myself amidst the fray. In the busyness of creating and enjoying a good life, I can forget who is at the center of this one precious human life that is mine. It’s easy for me to overlook or dismiss the voice of my heart. It tends to speak in quiet ways.
And so January is a time of year I love because it reminds me to ease up on all my doing. To curb my tendency to want to do more than I can and instead schedule less. To allow myself time to be more present with my inner guidance. To renew my friendship with, and my knowing of, deep needs and desires. And, to bring them forward where I can see them and hitch my navigation up to them.
I’m giving myself over to January. I know that I’ll hit restless patches. I’ll distract myself. I’ll search for someone else to answer my biggest questions. I’ll detour and dismiss.
But I’ll begin again.
To let the bustle die down. To open up a poem of Mary Oliver’s that reminds me how immeasurable the world is. To sit by myself with a cup of tea at a window and let my senses wander out into the sound of the rain falling. To let myself settle and still so that what needs to arise from my soul can do so. And in those still waters of awareness, messages from deep within can become visible and welcome.