Monday, November 23, 2015

Zen and the Art of Cross Country Skiing

I got to cross country ski in November.  Two days in a row now.  It's my favorite exercise.  Ever.  I love sitting on my steps, putting on my boots and gators, walking out the door, clicking on the skis and just going.  Around and around and around.  Ten acres, three laps - the same scenery, sounds and smells - day after day. Sort of. The track is the width of our John Deere mower deck and it has unremarkable hills, trees, a pond, critter tracks, critters, a field, edges; they don't change all that much. I could certainly say I've been there, done that, many times, in every season.  If I can't ski it, I walk it. But I've had strings of ski weeks that go all the way to spring.  I get all the goodie out of every bit of snow, and luckily, we get a fair amount around here.  And every single lap is a new discovery if you do it in the right frame of mind.

I don't find it beautiful compared to some of the stunning things I've seen traveling the US and other parts of the world.  But I am regularly blown away by it.   I do that 30 acre track very mindfully.  I feel my feet in my boots, my boots on my skis, my skis on the snow, my muscles contracting, the breeze and sun on my face, the sweat dripping down the small of my back, see the dazzling sparkle of snow, the play of shadows, hear the sound of my breathing, smell the snow in the air.  It's different every time. I like skiing best because I do have to work a little harder not to fall on my bum, so my purposeful, linear thinking is much more easily suspended.

That's when I come closest to feeling the world the way that bluejay does when it flaps out in front of me and suspends for a second before it zips away.  I'm just there, with the deer that I scare into the field across the pond or the wood ducks or that crawdad that stands on it's tail in the spring snapping its teeny claws at me like it's gonna scare me off.  I've met generations of brave little crawdads in approximately the same low spot at the bottom of the hill, past the pond.  And once, a little fawn that couldn't have been more than a few hours old.  But it's not the dew glittered spider webs or the array of changing blooms; it's not the textures or the tracks or the critter scat or sightings.  It's the being and belonging as I slide over the different kinds of snow, sticking or zipping along.  I'm not much for sitting meditation, though I'll try.  I'm more a zen and the art of cross country skiing kind of girl.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rising man

There's a rising man forever frozen in the naked branches of the giant oak tree outside my bedroom window.  The oak grows up way past the third floor windows and towers over the roof, but the rising man is whole there, outside my room.  His modesty is preserved by the main trunk where he originates. Clear as day, each fall after the leaves drop, you see the back of his leg, bent at the knee, his midrift and shoulders lifting up, one arm out as if to catch himself and one arm reaching up.  The pose radiates strength, growth, unfolding.

He has no choice about being humble and patient, being made of oak and bark and all.  Squirrels race up and down his back and neck, chasing, jumping and tumbling over one another. He has made peace with the gray ones, the little red guys and the black ones.  He's pestered by some lovely woodpeckers - three toed, ladder-backed, red bellied, red headed, downy. He never flinches. And nuthatches, titmice, sparrows, bluebirds, jays and cardinals shelter and hop around, sharpening beaks, waiting their turns at the feeders.

I am always so glad to see him each year.  He helps me not to mourn the green and golden.  To love the still, textured potential of this dormant phase.  It's magnificent.  We should pause, rest, shelter and romp during this time.  It's the before and the after and right now.  You can see nothing more in him than what was lost, what is long in coming, what he cannot do.  Or  you can see his unmoving latency, stillness as beautiful and alive, full of magic and potential.

Monday, November 9, 2015


I love edges.  This time of dropped leaves and lingering green grass with the occasional blast of red or orange still vibrating.  My path to now is my daily walk around the mowed edge of our ten acres. Three laps.  Thoughts race but they come back to the apple I pluck from the last few still good ones on the last fruit bearing apple tree. Thoughts race but they come back to the large deep deer hoof prints in the mud in front of me.  My thoughts race but they come back for summer's last gift of the final six slightly frozen yellow pearl tomatoes that I eat with relish, and the eight Indiana figs that are almost ripe.  I don't eat all of those.

My thoughts drift as I end with my few standing yoga poses.  Then I salute the sun, close my eyes and see the lingering white shadow drift behind my lids.  I open them in the next pose and see the red heads of the lingering pineapple sage.  My thoughts drift then I count my breaths in the next pose and watch the clouds float, a hawk perched high in the tree.  My thoughts drift then the beautiful bones of one of the fully exposed giant oaks shimmers with frost.  My thoughts drift then I see my upside down dog shadow between my legs and smile.

Endings and beginnings are what edges are all about.  I love them.  They remind me that everything is temporary except that it all changes.  And that is magnificent.