Living deep in the forest has its benefits; it gives me an opportunity to connect to nature on a regular basis.
Often my time in nature during the winter months becomes a challenge. The thought of moving far from a warm fireplace, even covered in layers of winter clothes, feels formidable. But it’s worth it—winter can be the time of nature’s greatest teachings.
Winter’s snow reflects the light and brightens the scenery. The snow creates what I call the “Forest Newspaper.” This news is best read after a fresh snowfall and tells of the comings and goings of my neighbors. Many times I’m the first to leave human news, in the form of a path down the road or trail. But never am I the only news.
I see the tiny tracks of the chickadees and mice scurrying to avoid detection by their swift and deadly predators. The mice often burrow under the snow, creating a safe tunnel to transport them. Once, I read about a turkey’s loss of footing while walking down the side of the mountain. He fanned his wings, marking the snow, as he tried to regain balance and dignity. It brought a smile to my face as I imagined his friends laughing at his clumsiness.
Native indigenous people refer to tracks in terms of Spirit. They believe some of the spirit of the animal resides in its tracks. I believe this to be so, since when I look at an animal’s tracks and follow them, an image or thought of that animal always comes to me. The fresher the tracks, the stronger the presence of the animal is.
The landscape changes during the winter months. The trees lose their leaves and send their sap energy far below ground, storing it for a magnificent return in the spring. This loss of leaves carries with it an extra dose of light for the forest floor, which is so darkened in the summer months by shade. I can see farther through the trees and I notice the shapes of rocks and the curves on the mountains, which are unapparent during times when the leaves cloak them.
When we shed our outer trappings we can see farther and deeper than we have ever seen. Walking out into winter’s nature without a cell phone can offer us this time to shed and reconnect with our truth.
Recently I looked at a frozen waterfall four miles down the road. All I could see were the wonderful colors of the ice—whites and blues—frozen as if time stood still. The water of the fast-flowing creek in front was in stark contrast to its elemental friend, the ice frozen in the falls. I took many pictures, hoping to somehow save the impression this made on me. But I have to admit that the pictures fall short of the energy of seeing it in person.
The falls form slowly during the cold weather; they are made layer by layer as water seeps out of cracks in the rock on the side of the mountain. They start as small strings of ice, captured by the cold, and then the next drips freeze around them. The process continues, gradually completing this amazing work of art, until the water no longer drips out to be frozen or the sun warms the air enough to stop or reverse the process.
Some days, I feel as though my soul is as frozen as this waterfall.
Nothing moves; I’m trapped within its icy grip. I want to melt and flow like the creek in front of me, but I can’t. Only a day after seeing the ice falls, I experienced a freezing. I felt frozen, caught in a place I didn’t want to be.
I questioned myself. When had the first bit of me started to freeze, and why hadn’t I noticed it freezing, drip by drip, into a solid, icy structure? I had thought my life was flowing well: why did I not see the temperature drop? Deep in analysis I buried myself. I could not see the beauty of my ice castle while stuck deep within it, and I suffered.
To be released from my prison, I stepped back to appreciate it. I began to see that, in this frozen moment of time, it is part of me. And, slowly, like the gradual melting of the ice falls by the sun, I am realizing that the times when I feel the most stuck and frozen can be the times of my greatest connection to creativity.
Today, I embrace my frozenness, for soon the sun will melt the ice and I will flow, babbling down the creek and out to the ocean.
But for now, I accept being beautifully frozen in white and blue, a unique creation of nature.
Take time to do a winter journey into nature—whether a large and grand journey or one as small as sitting in one spot quietly connecting. See what others miss, huddled in their warm homes wearing their thumbs out texting mindless thoughts. Freeze your electrical world and thaw your connection to nature once again.
Paula Windeagle Martin is a professional dog trainer and animal communicator who lives in the middle of a state forest with her partner and two rescued dogs. Her first love has always been animals, particularly dogs, and especially rescued dogs. She practices shamanism as a way to connect with nature and is always exploring ways to help others make that connection as a sacred part of their lives. Currently, she is doing an internet radio show called “Living Connected to Nature” on Blog Talk Radio as well as maintaining a blog tracking her experiences in nature, called “Earth Spirituality.” She is also just starting a Facebook page called P.I. (Pet Intuitive), as well as working on a book for young adults, to be finished in 2014, inspired by her life in the woods as a kid.
Like I’m not “Spiritual.” I just practice being a good person. on Facebook.
Assistant Ed.: Jayleigh Lewis/ Ed: Lynn Hasselberger