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The heART of Ritual


What can we learn from how Nature spends Winter?

Life's adaptations to the cold and dark part of the year demonstrate how time and patience, in the end, teach us how to survive.

Wintertime comes what may. In wilder places, when winter comes and everything shuts down, we really do learn something. The problem is that for many people in many ways, winter doesn’t matter anymore. We can have strawberries in the middle of winter. We can have heat and light, and not have to cooperate and hunker down. But in the long run, we should take a message from nature, obey it, and listen to what it’s talking to us about. To do that takes discipline and it takes a space – the kinds of things that most people have a hard time coming up with.

Time when our steps slow to the song Of falling flakes and crackling flames When silver stars are high and still Deep in the velvet of the sky

The pandemic is a winter of sorts. Because if we can cooperate, wear a mask, and not try to run around in some sort of defiance of what nature is doing, it’s healthier for us. Look around and see what’s happening in the world of nature. You’re trying to avoid some of the worst things that could happen to you, like freezing to death or dying from the virus. Take into consideration what nature is telling you: “Stay safe.”

I'll know the feel of still, deep roots That crack the ice in frozen ponds And slumbering in winter's folds Have dreams of green and blue and gold

We’re always running into obstacles, because that’s nature’s way. It teaches us to adapt, to be flexible and innovative. In the collection of nature’s strategies below, you’ll see a tiny crustacean in the Antarctic ocean. And when winter comes, and there’s no food up at the top of the sea where it lives, it’s able to increase the density of a wax in its body so that it drops down effortlessly into the deep, where it’s so cold that it slows its metabolism. And it just waits out the time with no food by slowing down in the deep cold. That’s what we’re doing, in a way. We’re hunkering down just like the crustacean. And we’re going to protect ourselves and be here when it’s all over.

The crystal times the silent times I'll learn to love their quiet breath While deep beneath the glistening snow The black earth dreams of violets

Another adaptation of nature during the winter time is waiting. Snowbell flowers rush to prepare buds in the late summer so that they’ll be able to bloom as soon as the short spring arrives. But in the meantime, those buds just wait, quietly tucked under the snow cover.

Being quiet and waiting is not a skill that we have too much familiarity with. We want to do things now. We want to, but we forget that time and patience, in the end, will teach us how to survive things that otherwise would kill us.

I do meditation and it always calms me down and realigns me with the planet and with what nature is trying to tell me. I think that without it, I’d be off the rails all the time. And it’s counter to what I want to do sometimes, but I find that if I’ve done it, it gives me a perspective, that’s a lot of healthier and a lot more pleasurable and pleasant and cooperative. And it gives my own peripatetic personality a chance to still for a while. Once in a while, we have to just sit still and do nothing. Do nothing: That’s a concept that’s hard for us to catch on to.

I'll learn to love the fallow way And gather in the patient fruits And after autumn’s blaze and burn I'll know the feel of still, deep roots

During songwriting and poetry writing, I like to be in a beautiful place. I like walking through a forest of pine, and walking on grass - things in the ground that grow and that you can walk on. I like the feel of rocks under my feet if I’m exploring the side of the mountain. I like stepping on things that are pleasant to step on. Take your shoes off in the spring and run through the wet grass and see how all the flowers become part of the lawn - they kind of submerge themselves in the grass, and then they’re part of it. And then when you’re traveling, when you’re walking in bare feet, you can feel all of this happening under your bare feet. It’s that feeling of being close to the earth.

And that closeness can also be a protection. In the depths of winter, creatures of all kinds find shelter from the harshness of the weather by entering the steady embrace of the ground.

I'll learn to love the fallow way When all my colors fade to white And flying birds fold back their wings Upon my anxious wonderings

It’s very important to know that you can go as fast as you need to go, but time will teach you that things take a certain amount of time, no matter what you do. Things don’t grow any faster than they are supposed to grow. I suppose you can coax them along, but I think they grow on their own terms, and things grow when they’re supposed to. Babies grow and get properly nurtured, and people’s brains grow, and they get nurtured. It’s a lot about faith and serenity, really.

A lot of us have that thing that says, “Okay, I’m going to fix it, it’s going to be different. I’m going to redesign it. I want it to look in such a way and I want it now. I want to get all these things accomplished now.” Well, it doesn’t work that way. It’s a slow process of change. An hour takes an hour. It doesn’t it doesn’t take any less. We don’t have to hurry. We can relax and let it happen.

That’s something I have learned over the years. It takes a certain amount of time to write something that’s going to come out well. I can do just a little at a time and it will make a difference. It will become something different. If I just spent a little time on it every day, it’ll be fine.

That’s different than how I went about it before, staying up all night, drinking all the coffee I could get into my system, panicking when it wasn’t done––I was a great one for being under pressure all the time for everything. And I don’t I don’t feel that way anymore. I think it’s age. I think you learn to settle down and let things be, let things unfold.

I like that idea of unfolding. Unfolding.

As sure as time, as sure as snow As sure as moonlight, wind and stars The fallow time will fall away The sun will bring an April day And I will yield to Summer's way

When I get up in the morning, there are a few things I do. I try to remember my dreams, which is not as easy as it was in the beginning. And I then like to read my books. I read Emmet Fox and “365 Tao” and Thomas Merton and Marcus Aurelius. I read those books. Then I try to meditate and then I do a series of movements that are yogananda and satchitananda based. And then I like to try to write a poem every day or do some journaling in the morning and do some practicing every day. And I don’t have to do it all at once - I used to have to do everything all at once. I don’t feel that way anymore. It’s what nature does: it takes time to do things. And if we can slow down and look at what’s going on around us, we have a better chance of surviving till next week.

Article by Judy Collins


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