Lola Chi is a new member of the Wild, Abandoned household. She is a near eleven week old Border Collie mix bursting with energy and already a loving companion. Her mother was rescued by a dear foster family. Mom was recovered, pregnant, from Houston and brought to Parker, Colorado, a city south of Denver. We adopted Lola at eight weeks.
We had an adventure last night in the front yard. I recount it as being about 1 a.m. when Lola was fidgety and in urgent need of a bio-break. I bundled up and fetched the leash. This is what we do. Patience is required. Her ritual includes a bit of choreography to discover the best place in the (neighbor’s) front yard for her performances. Also, she must collect brack and stems and chew them.
But tonight, she went into full-point, her attention keenly directed to the east. Our house is on a T-intersection on a bit of a slope facing our across-the-street neighbors. Last night’s street party was orchestrated by two coyotes streaking back and forth across the street, maybe fifty feet away. Sighting one is not an abnormal occurence, but two signals a rabbit hunt. There was eye contact: Lola’s, one of their’s and mine. Lola was on alert, I was dragging, but did swing to bundle her in my arms and jacket and head slowly to the front door. This would not have been her choice. She was in it for keeps, like Wonder Woman. There are too many stories in these parts recounting swift attacks on small animals. Something kept them occupied or scared them off, because they were gone quickly, like strands of mercury. My surprise was that Lola’s tail was fully parallel to the ground, her eyes were fixed on the interlopers, she did not move except to ease forward, and I detected no submissive posture whatsoever. Delivery vans scare her. She pee’d on me once when the UPS delivery woman came too close to the front door. But wild animals don’t scare her? This is maybe not so good. Was she ready to herd them? I’ll need to be more aware–like her. The Nextdoor site has posted that there is a Great Horned Owl picking off small pets. We are Wilder here than I recently recall.
On my insistance Lola slept the better part of the remaining evening next to me, in bed. Chalk it up to my unease, not her’s. Today, I, pridefully, smell like dog. I may not even shower. I don’t think the vet will mind. Lola may be a bit Wild, but she will never, ever be Abandoned.
Wild, Abandoned reflected on the active energy present in nature during the winter solstice. Near the eve of the Hibernal Solstice, here’s a vignette on a very near winter world & the relationships of plant and mammals. Neither of the varieties of both hibernate, it seems. In fact, there is a highly energetic relationship between squirrels and conifers in winter. The property I live on is nothing more than a small conifer orchard which includes six pines and firs small and large to the east and west of a house. Now, pinecones are everywhere. They make wide amber colored blankets of bracts which can be seen on the winter days when the snow is gone. It’s squirrels at work of course. They eat from the bottom up of these cones and drop the hard-shell exteriors of the seeds. I think they prefer to strip the armored cones of the fifty foot plus Red Pine to on the southeast corner of the property. The seeds are the prize, under the scales, and they must be sweet and nutritious. They leave a vast field of middens (as these are called) on the now straw-colored bluegrass. Here, they don’t need to bury the cones in the late fall for recovery in winter. The trees are productive and simply don’t drop all their cones. Those are the trees, by the way, that retain their green on the outside, even as they’ve halted the production of pollen. I’ve often wondered why there is a steady drip of sap from the trees in the winter as well. I’ve learned this to be, again, partly the squirrels’ work. They have tapped the tree for the elixir that apparently nourishes as it gives them the energy to run amok.
This post was revised to multiple edited posts on December 18. Here’s hoping it reads a bit leaner and humbler.
“Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow”
This is how poet Christina Rossetti described the natural world to our insufficient senses in “In the Bleak Midwinter” in 1872. The poetry is exquisite and ready made for the liturgical hymn it would become. But is this the sum of the winter world in its entirety: stiff as stone, hard as iron, and abundant with snow?
Midwinter’s Energy: This is Not Retreat
Why would an assessment of winter lensed through human senses be at all inadequate to describe the energy of the natural world at this relative time? Because the less-seen-world of nature during a hibernal Winter Solstice (“midwinter’) can be more active than we observe. This is true both in our immediate terrestrial environs, but also on a cosmological scale. Let’s start with what has been happening over the last several months, leading to the Winter Solstice. While observed on the shortest day (December 21, 2019) solstice is a process. Our planet began the process which will turn our lakes to stone, our earth to iron and produce snow on snow on snow around September 21st . This was when both the earth’s rotation and tilt moved our Northern Hemisphere away from the direction of the sun. Both tilt and direction are the important terms and concepts. We are not “farther” way from the sun. In fact, our planet is closer to the sun within its elliptical annual rotation in December. But we in the Northern Hemisphere experience winter now due to the tilt. If the concept is difficult to grasp, think of this: the sun appears to be lower in the sky throughout the winter. That is because we are tilted away from the sun.
It’s Good To Be Oblique: On Earth We Lean
I’m not a scientist and I nearly failed Astronomy in college. I’m a poet and would now like to return to the more familiar and tilted ground of earth. Let’s just accept that we are moving around the sun in an ellipse, the earth is rotating at the same rate as it travels that ellipse, and our planet relative to the sun is always tilted at a 23+ degree angle. We are oblique, posed at an angle on this planet at all times. This is where our terrestrially aligned senses fail. Our relationship with the ground is predictable, even though we stand at an extreme angle relative to the sun we orbit. When I step out the front door, the stairs to the driveway are in the same place, the trees rise perpendicular to ground around them. I do like this fidelity. I also like that the earth is moving through space with fidelity over the course of what we call a year. Days are still measured with 24 hours during all seasons. But sunlight is scarce and days, realtively speaking, are short.
Remaining Green on the Inside
Closer to home: nature doesn’t disappear in the winter. Most animals and insects, and even many plants, don’t actually die. Most move to a hibernal state. This is to say they are using energy-differently.
Perennials are said to come back. But they never went away. Many just move to a state of dormancy. I have purple coneflower that returns every year in the late spring in my Wild, Abandoned backyard. They are now dry, brittle stalks and seed caps. But they are green on the inside. The seeds seem to drop in the same relative place every year and need the winter for pre-gestation processes. Cold weather will ease open the surrounding shell while the seed remains dormant in the hardened soil. That seed, a fragment of the plant, is using energy differently in its dormancy. To take it to a nearly metaphysical level—that plant part is getting a major assist from winter earth energy that works to crack it open and literally hold it in place.
Slower, Because We Are
Take the human experience. It feels slower. An icy ground is harder to navigate. We tire faster in cold weather. It seems to take more energy to do anything. We are moving to our hibernal state as we tilt farther from our universal source of energy. That’s right, the planet is not the only thing that is heliocentric. We are also depending on the sun to produce food for energy and a terrestrial atmosphere that itself drives our bodies to utilize energy differently. But we are not just going to sleep.
The Winter Work of Our Beautiful Minds
There is perhaps a good scientific and neurological explanation to why I feel that I have a more fertile imagination, write more, read more and even derive more satisfaction from all of these activities in the months leading into the Solstice and through the winter. I’m just not willing to stop and research the physical factors at the moment. I’m going with this: mind energy is capable of using the reserve of energy that a body has stored as a result of a its winter readiness. These might be the results of: the kinetics of moving slower through the world, eating more fats, & of all our natural inclinations to physically survive the winter. But as our planet tilts farther from the sun, we seem to tilt inward to thoughtful and creative processes. I don’t think I’m alone in this actioning of the mind with activities like those listed above. Even those friends I know to be grieving this time of year are using their mental and if you will, spiritual energy, in a constructive and active manner. This is not exclusively the work we do in midwinter, but for many of us, it is work which comes more naturally at this time.
Tilt Farther this Midwinter- We Are Not Standing Still
The literal definition of Solstice is “Sun Standing Still.” Poetically, I think of this as the sun giving us our big break, literally and figuratively. Is your heart ready for what the midwinter might bring to you? This Hibernal Solstice I invite all to take the big break the sun has gifted you: recover more of your humanity waiting in reserve, turn off the political vitriol, enrich the hearts of others, reach out to the grieving (even if that’s yourself), and share some this productive sun-born energy. Perhaps, more simply: love the world that sustains us, more. I’ve witnessed and accepted, let’s call it, luminous energy from friends, family, & strangers– much of it transmitted in this very “time of the tilt.” You may call it Christmas, or something else entirely. It’s midwinter by the solar calendar. Winter will not break us, but it very well may play a part in making us stronger mentally and spiritually. We are still standing, but we are not standing still. Tilt Farther.