Tag Archive for: winter

A Blanket of Snow

After a warmer-than-average December melted the little snow we received and early January froze that into a dangerous coating of ice, I appreciate the blanket of snow I see now. Even very cold days are brightened by the sunlight reflecting off the ice crystals.

Perhaps it is due to pursuing interfaith seminary, Druidic studies, wildlife rehabilitation, and conservation at the same time that I am immensely curious about everything that catches my attention now. The latest snowfall was light, powdery, and very sparkly. I needed to know more about how snow worked.

grey squirrel moving through powdery snow

The grey squirrels are less enamored with dry snow, because all the nuts I toss disappear into the powder.

I learned that snow needs two things to form: an atmospheric temperature at or below freezing and moisture in the air. Basically, as I understand it, a cloud containing water droplets rises into the cooler part of the atmosphere or cold air moves down. Then water droplets within the cloud freeze into ice crystals. More droplets freeze onto each ice crystal until snowflakes are formed. Once a snowflake is heavy enough it falls towards the ground. If the ground is also cold, the snowflakes pile up without melting. If there are enough of them, we get blessed with a blanket of snow.

Dry snow, which means the air at ground level is cold enough to keep everything frozen, is the kind that sparkles. The individual ice crystals remain separated so there are lots of reflective surfaces. Wet snow, on the other hand, happens when warmer temperatures melt the crystals causing snowflakes stick together and to everything they touch, like trees. The wet stuff is great for building snowmen but is also heavy and hard to shovel.

This bit of knowledge has helped me to be less bothered by the deep freeze we have been experiencing. Although getting outdoors for morning meditation means putting on extra layers to protect myself from the cold, my mood is elevated by the glitter of snow.

Breathing with Trees

Breathing with trees in the AdirondacksI ventured out, alone, in my snowshoes, on a quiet trail through the woods. We had had the first substantial snowfall of winter a few days before, and I came to a part of the trail that had not been broken since the storm. I’m not experienced on snowshoes and it was only my second time out this season, but it was quiet and beautiful so I decided to push on.

Once my body started complaining, I stopped and turned back. It had begun to snow again, which was lovely to look at but made the trail more challenging. I caught myself getting short of breath as my heart rate came up and I took a break.

There was a time when I would have been frightened out in the woods, all alone, with no cell signal, my heart pounding in my chest, but now I have a relationship with the trees. Through my shamanic work I have become aware of the life energy that flows through the trees. I have seen them “lit up” with that energy. It is the same energy that flows through you and me.

Rather than panicking out in the woods, I sat in the snow with my back to a tree. I tuned into that energy. And I began to breathe with the tree. Plants and animals are the two halves of the beautiful life-sustaining oxygen cycle. Trees breathe out oxygen, we breathe it in. We breath out carbon dioxide, the trees breathe it in.

Sitting against the tree, I became conscious of breathing in what the tree was releasing. It was as if I could draw the breath right out of the tree into my back. Then I breathed out and felt the tree draw in my out-breath. Back and forth, the tree and I breathed together, until my heart rate slowed and I felt safe and held. I walked calmly out of the woods.

This simple but powerful practice draws my awareness to the interconnected web of life. While the woods are a wonderful place to experience it, I find the same sense of connection and peace when I breathe with the trees in my backyard or even my houseplants. I leave a small offering in gratitude for the breath when I can, and I always speak my thanks. I know I am heard.