I have lived most of my life in the Catskill Mountains of New York and still, winter here can be challenging. Most years, winter arrives early and stays late. I find that each year I lean a little deeper into the opportunities that come with the colder months of the year. Frigid temperatures, snow, and ice, freeze the landscape and only the hardiest creatures of the more than human world venture out. Deciduous trees, bare of leaf, creak and groan in a wind that sometimes feels like it is never going to stop. Nature is tucked in and bedded down waiting for the arrival of spring.
When I view the landscape, whether it is my own interiority or what I am feeling into in the external environment, I am reminded that there is no duality here. Winter is the season where I most feel my perceived boundary of self and other loosen its grip. When I walk in the forest, my footsteps muted by the snow, the only sounds I hear are my own breathing and the swishing of branches in the air. Are they not the same?
My sense of immediacy becomes palpable when I move through the frosted forest. The winter mindset of contemplation and introspection meets the glistening brilliance around me, and something dissolves in my awareness. I am no longer looking out at something from "in here". I feel myself as nature experiencing itself. The water running beneath the ice is the same water that makes up 70 percent of my body. The oxygen I breathe in from the trees and the carbon dioxide they breathe in from me is an exchange that has been going on since the beginning. The earth under my feet is made of the same elements that make up my bones, skin, teeth, and hair. And they too will all return to the earth in due time. My consciousness is not tied to the physical "me". It is the same conscious field that all of creation shares. Where can there possibly be separation when every single cell and thought is tied to the other in some way?
It is no surprise that joy is a word that is frequently heard at this time of year. The connotations may be different for each person's individual experience, but joy is the perfect word. Feeling a deep visceral connection to our experience of ourselves in the natural world is joyful. So, I invite you to spend some time outside. While winter may be what moves me it may be otherwise for you. You may notice the summer’s heat and warmth, the spring greening, or the autumn harvest. Or the starry sky, a beach, or a desert may call to you. There is only one way to find out. Lean into the natural world, wherever you are, and you just might find it leaning back.
From my heart to yours,
Christopher T. Franza
OMEC Board of Directors