YESTERDAY: January’s nearly over and, due to the erratic weather, we hit our beloved sledding hill for the first time all winter. The snow was sparse but slippery enough to get downhill!
TODAY: The kiddo wrestled his coat off through the seatbelt and went bare-armed (against Dad’s grumblings; meanwhile, I’m all “who needs the fight? g’head and test it for yourself”) for the short walk between the car and the building!
I knew I’d have to make peace with winter when I decided to move back to Michigan 10 years ago (from NYC, which in my 9-year stint as a resident, had milder weather. Hands down. The true test: my nose hairs never once sprouted icicles!) As a kid, I loved everything about it. But my intolerance for snow, bitter chill, and grey skies–sometimes from October to April–grew with each year of adulthood. Maybe it’s genetic–my Caribbean roots or my anemia!
So I chose to embrace it rather than to suffer or grumble through the inevitable teeth-chattering and shoulder-scrunching. Warmed by my childhood memories of gliding, stumbling, and laughing with family and friends as we looped around our now-defunct outdoor ice rink for hours on end, I bought ice skates and made weekly visits during the mid-day open skate. I learned to breathe and relax my arms instead of tensing all my muscles in a futile attempt to fold deeper into my goose-prickled skin. I was slowly becoming weather-resilient!
By the time I became a parent, I was committed to making sure my son would be an all-seasons kid. So as long as the temperatures don’t veer toward the danger zone, we bundle up for regular walks and romps in the snow.
Notable winter moments so far:
K got his very own shovel as a gift from his Papa! It was as much a gift for Daddy too since he no longer had to trade turns with K while clearing the walkway.
My Caribbean father, who has lived in Michigan for all but two of the nearly 40 years he’s been residing in the States, went sledding for the very first time in his life! It was a joy to watch K and his Papi make such memories…and a trip to see my dad spend hours editing the video he shot of our sledding adventure that day! #BucketList
It was 17° F on New Year’s Day, and my practice still beckoned me to honor my commitment to get sorted, settled and centered–body, heart, and mind–through my walking/running meditation.
There’s a special stillness in winter that I deeply appreciate. Fewer people venture out when the temperature dips below 30 °F, and only the bravest dare to “play” if the sun’s not offering some illusion of warmth. Slate grey sky. Stark white snow. A solid path along a river flowing beneath a thickening sheet of ice. Scraggly winter-stripped branches and a frizzled ridge of vegetation mark the border between shoreline and water.
I feel enveloped and penetrated by this rare moment of quietude. The sensation of refuge arises to warm my muscles–fueling each step or sprint.
I am reminded of the “witching hours” when I’m awakened by the moon. Fully alert and energized, I sit or lie down to meditate, abiding in breath, or write out my contemplations in my journal. Reprieve in a house that is typically buzzing with the energy of my 3-year old daredevil and the electricity of appliances and electronics in constant service. A murmur and sweet sigh from my son. I pause, instinctually ready to respond to his call. I relax once more. A startling chainsaw-like snore from my mate. I pause again, listening to the pattern. If it continues, I move to another room.
These sacred spaces–a park in winter, a house in slumber–magnify the wonder and magic of my mindfulness practice.
I finally prepared my garden over the stretch of a week—turning the earth over (Shhh! I surprised my semi-bug-phobic self by apologizing to the displaced insect life and asking for their help in growing our garden), watering the plot, contemplating the layout and selection of plants, and interplanting flowers and herbs for the first time. All the while, my dirt-loving-Earth-Day-born 2-year-old was giddily digging right alongside me.
By the end of the day, K was a pro with the garden hose and everything was a fair target. Including me, of course! I even had to negotiate time with it. He’d reluctantly hand it over, whimpering “my hose” and half-heartedly picking up the hand shovel or cultivator until he could get the hose back in his grip.
So now he’s the official hose boy!
Days later, K waters the garden.
Tending the Earth
While at the park one afternoon, he played with two little girls who were trying to make an airplane out of candy wrappers strewn about the playground. I pointed out other scraps they could use, remarking how cool and clever it was that they were recycling garbage into art. Suddenly, K starts hunting down trash and throwing it away!
I have no doubt that our time together in the garden cleaning up debris, tilling, weeding, planting, watering and admiring our efforts have planted in him the seeds to be a steward of this earth.
First blooms of the Snapdragons
Yesterday, I was so excited to see the first of the snapdragons flowering!
The gift of the whole universe:
the earth, the sky, the rain, and the sun…*
…A hose, a toddler’s enthusiasm and wonder,
Our hands, our breath, our laughter, our smiles.
*Making Space (Thich Nhat Hanh) from The Six Contemplations for Young People
I was moved by this beautiful image circulating around Facebook last fall. These children, connected to the earth, connected to one another, through laughter and play, are radiant with the fullness of life and love. A love that is boundless— permeating and nourishing all it touches, and being fed in return by the breath and hope of all living things.
Seeing this instantly brought to mind these lines from the Metta Sutta (or Discourse on Love):
“Just as a mother loves and protects her only child at the risk of her own life,
cultivate boundless love to offer to all living beings in the entire cosmos.
Let our boundless love pervade the whole universe, above, below, and across.
Our love will know no obstacles. Our heart will be absolutely free from hatred and enmity.
Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying, as long as we are awake,
we should maintain this mindfulness of love in our own heart.
These two gorgeous lines (tweeted by someone in my cipher) sprang to life in the shape of my puddle-hunting, snow-munching, nature-loving son! In them I see a beautiful meditation celebrating the transition from winter to spring.
spring when the world is mudlicious…
…when the world is puddle-wonderful…
And, on the brink of spring in Michigan…when the world is snowlightful!
MAGIC: A parent’s chore is a child’s greatest joy!
Here, K got in on the shoveling fun started by his Papa and Daddy…and made a game of switching shovels every few moments.
MINDFULNESS: Whenever I sweep the floors or scrub the tub, K begs to assist. I gladly pull out the extra broom so he can help clean up his cracker crumbs and give him the scrub brush and allow him to jump naked in a baking soda-coated bathtub to muscle out the bubble bath scum.
While K is demonstrating autonomy and initiative, I have the opportunity to nurture seeds of cooperation (all along chirping The Wonder Pets’ “teamwork” song) and an appreciation for taking care of his home and belongings as well as those of others.
So I say, let start ’em young! Guiding him through a task may take a few extra minutes. But the songs, smiles, and laughter—evoked by his proud cheers of “I did it!”—truly lighten the load.