Those of us who love the outdoors, seemingly enjoy everything it has to offer. In Spring and Summer, we can hardly wait to go outside and feel rebirth and renewal in every breath; see bulbs break ground and burst into flower; the trees leafing into their distinct shades of green once more. We’re inspired to dust off our bicycles, or skates, or walking sticks. We are ready to engage in the beauty of nature; engage in activities that often require some long soaks in a hot tub, citing how out of shape we are after “that long lazy winter”. In Autumn, we walk along trails resplendent with the color from leaves that the trees have pushed off in preparation for wintertime. We go apple picking and love the crispness of the air and the warmth of the late afternoon sun.
We must talk about Winter if we’re going to engage with nature in ALL her beauty. I’ve seen memes on the first day of winter that read, “Only 75 more days till Spring!”. We stay indoors; become less active, less motivated, perhaps. We’ve forgotten - or choose to ignore - an entire season that is essential to our human cycles of life as well as nature’s. Not all of us, certainly, and yet, enough of us.
Energetically, Winter is a time of deep rest in preparation for a rebirth or transformation. The trees sense it as early as late Summer and early Autumn when many begin the arduous task of pushing their leaves off their branches, dispelling the idea of “Autumn leaves falling”. They only fall because they are pushed. These leaves are useless when the tree needs all its energy to keep its living cells from freezing in the cold. Trees know how to shut down what’s non-essential in order to ready themselves for hibernation, or dormancy, all the while actively keeping their living cells from freezing. At rest and active simultaneously. Some even set their buds before dormancy in preparation for Spring and warmer weather. My lilac bush is awash with tight red buds in December awaiting a signal that Spring has arrived and it gives me hope every time I stop to admire the lilac’s forethought and handiwork.
So, how do trees keep from freezing in wintertime? Research tells us that some trees change their cell membranes to become suppler in wintertime, so the amount of water they usually hold is released to the space between cells, where freezing is not an issue, maybe even of benefit to the tree. We humans usually eat more, put on a few of pounds, two or five or ten, acting more like bears planning to sleep through the Winter than trees whose work is less obvious yet still at work. Speaking of eating more, some trees even supply more sugar to their living cells, like anti-freeze, lowering the point at which a cell will freeze. They just don’t gain weight or worry how they’ll look in a bathing suit.
This brings me to the question: how do you keep your living cells from freezing in Wintertime? What are the non-essentials you push off to focus your attention on what keeps you alive? And what little buds are you birthing for a later date, a warmer season, a full expression of you when the time comes?
Beyond the science of trees, there is an aesthetic beauty to the woods in Wintertime. There is a silence in the woods, in which we can hear our own hearts beating, or hear snow fall to the ground as a squirrel dashes across a branch, or hear how the song of the wind in the leafless trees has changed ever so slightly; a song in the key of Winter; different than a song in the key of Spring. It requires us to be in dormancy, too, if we choose to notice and hear these things. What’s in motion when it isn’t you? What are you noticing, being present to the silence and stillness of Winter?
Most of all, how is Wintertime essential to your being alive, a thing of beauty and part of every season in nature?