We had a very nice surprise a couple days ago: snow. A light but steady snowfall that began midmorning. Not alot, but just enough to cover the paths and the frozen lake. After enjoying it through the window most of the afternoon I stopped resisting the urge and took Talula out for a short walk. I wanted to go half way around the lake so that I could take a picture looking back across the lake at the cabin.
The birds were, of course, very busy as they often are during snow fall. The usual cast of characters could be seen or heard as they went about their business of food gathering. While I love and appreciate them all, it is always the plain and simple Juncos that seem to bring the biggest smile to my face. I'm not sure why. Just a few hundred feet from the cabin we came across five or six deer that were just a few feet into the woods.
At fifteen degrees it is cold enough that my thin work gloves only seem to keep my fingers warm for a brief few minutes so by the time I'd gotten my photos I was starting to really feel the chill in my hands. I was eager to head back to the warmth of the wood warmed cabin and yesterday's leftover vegetable soup that I left heating up on the stove. My pace was quick.
I'm not sure what prompted it, but as I walked back I slowed, then stopped under a cluster of cedar trees. I stood still. I looked into the woods and then up into the sky. Time seemed to slow. I was suddenly very aware of each breath. I had the sense that my vision had both widened and narrowed at the same time. I was aware of the larger sky but also of a field of focus just inches above my face in which the crystal structure of each passing snowflake became unbelievably clear. What came next was an amazing sense of calm and my body relaxed. I was warm. I then became aware of this heightened sense of awareness which was comforting and strange.
This is the pure and simple beauty that comes from a life lived in deliberate connection with nature. I've had many such moments of awareness before and consider them the most beautiful moments of my life. All of them have happened while I was "outside" in the natural world. I've come to believe that these moments can happen every day and with practice that they can become anchor points that deepen our connection, our relation with the living force of the planet all around us.
I suppose such moments are similar to or the same as the daily mindfulness that Buddhists such as Thich Nat Han advocate as a form of moment-to-moment, breath-meditation that leads to an over-all increase in awareness and thus, peacefulness. Based on my own experience I tend to agree with the approach and the result. But a general sense of well being and peacefulness is not the end. It is far more meaningful if combined with the active cultivation of ecologically sustainable human community.
I can't help but think that the deliberate, cultivated sense of being in the moment, of being connected and aware of the life around us when combined with the meaningful and needed work of social ecological activism can only lead to a more realized and evolved humanity.