Entering the Winter Womb

December 16, 2011


We have entered the womb of winter. There is much darkness and it is often silent. Most everything is resting. The fire is warm, the hot soup nourishing. And so we will incubate through these coming months, awaiting to emerge once again, with the spring lambs and wild flowers, into the living world. In the mean time, we nurture our growth, cultivate new ideas, and feed our farther reaches. We humans are lucky. We have the opportunity to be re-birthed annually, to experience a waking hibernation, a conscious gestation. Too often in winter it seems we hold on to life in the light, the race of survival that surrounds us spring, summer and fall and become disappointed that we cannot keep pace with the world. This winter, I am willingly walking into this womb, with excitement and anticipation for what will emerge on the other end.

This past week has been clear and cold. A weather pattern that brings chilly, starry nights and days with warm winter sun and blue skies. This weather accentuates topography and clearly distinguishes shadows. In the sun, frost heaves melt into mud, and my boots fight for traction. By night-fall it's all frozen again, even my boot print. This cycle keeps the earth moving, the rocks surfacing, the moisture on its downward journey to the river. But only where the sun shines.

In the shadows, the ground stays hard, still, stoic. The grass is beautiful with its tips white with frost, untouched by even a ray of light at noon. Picture perfect. Predictable.

I find myself relating to this schizophrenic earth. To the daily cycles of freeze and thaw, preserving by night in solid ground the boot prints, tire tracks, hoof marks made by day. Only to find that tomorrow or next week, these will be reworked, remolded by life leading onwards. And yet, there are those places, in the shadows, that do not shift, that remain seemingly unchanged even by the passing of a day. These are the places that are reliable, sometimes beautifully, and sometimes regretfully, stubborn.

Change is often heralded as the only constant. We live in a dynamic world, a world of heaving and sliding ground, of water that rarely stays still, of reactions constantly seeking a steady state. Every day my cells replace themselves. It's this change that keeps me alive. It's this fight for equilibrium that keeps this Earth alive. But there is something comforting in the shadows, in the places that sun never reaches, the places that remain the same despite the passing of time. Or at least appear to.

I had a rib of lamb yesterday for lunch. In separating the ribs from the spine I had to use a saw on bone. It was uneven sawing. I cut through bone, then slid through flesh, bone, flesh, bone flesh, bone flesh. This pattern of hard alternating with soft, solid with translucent, white with red, is breathtaking when cast in afternoon light. It's picture perfect.

Every time we harvest an animal, I am awed by the beauty of the ribcage. It is a reliable beauty. But it does not let you see it easily. It is secreted away beneath a coat of wool, a hide of fur, protected for always from the light of day. Until, you stop a breath, a heart, a body's fight for life and only then are you able to witness its delicate design, its stubborn strength. It's like entering into an intentional incubation in the winter womb to experience the exhilaration of a waking birth.

I don't know how, but it seems my sense of self, my body, this Earth all achieve the impossible. We are changed yet somehow we remain the same. We freeze in the shadow, melt in the sun, are molded by events and the passing of time. Yet, for days, sometimes seasons, sometimes entire lifetimes pieces of us incubate, waiting to emerge from the womb that protects us from the disequilibrium that forces us all to breathe.