It’s more complicated now, and requires a bit more preparation. With the drop in temperatures and the dusting of snow there are gloves to find -- at least the missing partner to the one that remains in the pocket; there is the scarf to wrap, the coat to zip, the boots to lace. And there is the separation anxiety from the warm flames dancing in the fireplace as the brisk air hits your face through the open door. Still, it is worth taking walks outside. There is a crunch to the footsteps. Breath is as visual as it is pulmonary. On sunny days the air has a purity unique to the season, and the few surviving leaves flutter proudly, encouragingly, on the otherwise naked branch. Even a winter landscape has its artful, instructive and centering voice; quieter, perhaps, without the birdsongs and branches muffled in hoarfrost, but nourishing nonetheless -- perhaps even medicinal.
In Walden, Thoreau wrote “We need the tonic of wildness." Presumably that need extends through the winter. A recent article in the Huffington Post put a sharper point on it: "We can never have enough of nature” ("What The 1960s Got Right About Health, Happiness And Well-Being," by Carolyn Gregoire, 11/22/2013).
Holy in its own way, that walk in the woods or the field or the sidewalk through the neighborhood may be medicinal not only for body and mind, but for the soul as well.
In the Preface to his recently released collection of Sabbath poems, Wendell Berry notes that, “the idea of the sabbath gains in meaning as it is brought out-of-doors and into a place where nature’s principles of self-sustaining wholeness and health are still evident. In such a place -- as never, for me, under a roof -- the natural and the supernatural, the heavenly and the earthly, the soul and the body, the wondrous and the ordinary, all appear to occur together in the one fabric of creation. All stand both upon the earth and upon the fundamental miracle that where once was nothing now we have these creatures in this place on this day. In such a place one might expectably come to rest, with trust renewed in the creation’s power to exist and to continue.”
Last year Lori and I bought snowshoes to better navigate the trails through the prairie behind the garden. For sabbath walks in winter. Because the soul has a hunger irrespective of the season.
And the fire will be waiting for us when we return