We didn’t need Punxsutawney Phil this year to know we’re only halfway through what is proving to be a very long, snowy winter.
Not that I’m complaining. I love winter—the whole shebang. The big coats that are essentially socially acceptable versions of wearing a robe outside; the scrunch of snow underfoot on my morning commute around the neighborhood; tromping through snow to give my kids the best possible sled ride to school before heading to work myself with the sled skittering behind me.
We’re only one week into the—universally recognized—hardest month of winter. We’ve already weathered two polar vortices and a string of days below zero. So this week, when yet another beautiful flurry of snow came down, the cold, tiny voice in my head whimpered, “Again?”
Remember the feeling you have on that very first snowy day of the season—the one that doesn’t stick? I always feel excited at the hint of winter beauty, followed closely by disappointment when the snow melts because winter is not quite official yet.
I have to hang up my snow pants and try to be patient.
Then comes the first real snowfall—the first accumulation, as meteorologists call it. The gorgeous white blanket thrown over your once familiar world, the muffling of alleyways. The all-night brightening of backyards. The fascination with just exactly what kind of snow it is: packing, fluffy, shimmering, snow-globe, sledding, sticky, damp, heavy, wet.
We are not Eskimos, but still we get it.
After a few weeks of coldness, the accumulation is tarnished, grayed by boots, blackened by cars, yellowed and browned by dogs. Maybe it’s time for a warm spell to take it all away, you think. Then comes another snowstorm, then another…then three more in as many days.
It’s all too much, you think. Again?
“Yes, again“, says Winter.
And then again some more.
Accumulation is being bogged down by the storms of days past, so that each time the snow seems to weigh more, like you’re shoveling all of the season’s snows rather than just the one that has most recently fallen. Accumulation is the piling on of anticipation, wondering how many more you’ll be subjected to in the coming weeks.
Accumulation is the fearing that you’ll soon reach the breaking point—that the storm that will figuratively (and possibly, literally) break your back.
This most recent snow—this blustery flurry, this perfectly unique snowflake that landed on my black mitten—doesn’t know about the 24 snowstorms before it. It doesn’t have anything to do with the 9 snowfalls that will follow later this month.
If I can simply pay attention, this one snowfall can be just that—one snowfall—and I need not be a victim of Winter’s cruelty.
Yoga is my snowbrush.
Just as I wouldn’t dream of driving off in a snow covered car, it’s hard to imagine safely and effectively navigating the challenges of winter without the practice of coming to my mat day–after–day to meditate, move consciously, breathe deeply, and rest.
When I slow down, get quiet, and practice listening to what my body needs right in this moment, I’m better equipped to do the same when I wake up stiff on a cold winter morning. Instead of being in denial about this winter business, instead of pretending I don’t notice the shoveling-induced kinks in my neck as I roll out my mat on the living room floor, I practice for this season, this day, this moment, this ache.
Despite the temptation of bellyaching every time snow falls, I’ve decided there’s no use in allowing accumulation to weigh me down. I let go of what has built up (tension, tiredness, mental fatigue) and make time to rest and restore (hello, gentle yoga).
I can make it through this one snowfall, like it’s the first one.
I can rekindle the feeling of newness and excitement I felt at the start of the season. I can pay attention to the details of how this particular storm unfolds with its whistling wind, slow heavy flakes, or swirling bluster.
It is neither welcome, nor unwelcome. It just is.
As I head out to clear our sidewalk yet again, I practice shoveling just the snow that’s currently here rather than dwelling on the fact that I’ve spent hours this season, day after day, chipping away. Rather, this is the way one snowflake falls and is shoveled. There will be other storms, other snowflakes, other challenges. For now, look at the gorgeous sparkle. Breathe in and see the accumulation hills that border the sidewalks.
Look at this one perfect white snowflake on my old black mitten, never before seen, never again to come.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Amani Omejer/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Bob Minnie/Pixoto