My boots crunch in the snow and I take a deep breath. My lungs filled with the sweet tinge of spring, but the bite of winter still plentiful. Little Leaf is snoring softly on my back. The joey that he is, he hadn’t napped outside of the carrier in days. Late night parties in his nest has caught up with him and the fresh air is almost always magical fairy dust. In the distance behind me, I hear Black Bird and Cheeky Monkey giggling while snow is flying back and forth between them. The snow is half-heartedly made into ammunition, mostly falling apart before it reaches their target. It didn’t matter to either of them – the moment was being fully experienced.
With every step I took, I could feel my stress, my tension, melting away. My days-old migraine moved down my body and out the soles of my feet; back to the Earth and absorbed by the Universe. Nature does that for me. It clears me, centers me, and gives me the space to absorb what I’m feeling and recycle it. The stress and tension is never gone these days, but Nature is always there to help me process it. Some people pray, some people meditate, but I immerse myself in nature. It’s where I find my answers. It’s where I find myself. It’s where I go when I have nowhere or no one else. Nature is the Constant. She does not judge. She both challenges us and comforts us in all of the right ways. Nature is all-knowing and all-seeing.
Michigan in the winter typically involves a stretch of extremely cold weather. I’m not talking 0 degrees – I’m talking double digits below zero. This winter was no exception. The windchill last week was -40 degrees. Schools and businesses closed for two and a half days. It was literally unsafe to be outside. Less than 24 hours being trapped inside and I had a serious case of cabin fever. Less than 36 hours and Little Leaf was banging at the sliding glass door and screeching. Less than 48 hours and Cheeky Monkey had ran out of projects to work on and was doing flips off the couch. The Crew was losing it and my tension and stress was bubbling over.
The Crew and I generally get out three or four times per week all year around. Even in the winter, when days are short and I’m working, we will do a night hike once or twice per week and a hike or two on the weekends. I’ve taken on a new fulltime career recently which has forced us to shift and we still need to ground ourselves in it. I am hoping as the weather improves and the days get longer, our outdoor time will increase naturally. We are a Get-Outside Family and these days being stuck inside creates a heavy weight – a feeling of being a wild animal in a zoo. Pacing, moody, irritable, erratic. Black Bird has a keen awareness of my behavior when I lack my outdoor time. He is so patient.
I am not a religious person, but I can imagine my feeling of being distant from Nature is similar to those that are lost in their spiritual journey. It’s lonely. You don’t have a direction. You have no idea where you’re going or what’s Right or Wrong. You’re sad, you’re angry, you’re frustrated. It’s scary to feel like you’ve lost your way.
Thankfully, for me, the snow is starting to melt and the birds are chirping. Even squirrels have peeked their head out and the Groundhog says spring is around the corner. Our hike in the woods was exactly what brought me back to Earth. I meditated with every step – each one bringing me back to myself and back to my connection with the Earth. Mother Nature gave us a break from the cold snap with a little foreshadowing of spring. I turned my face up at the sun, spread my arms out as far as they could go, extended my fingers, and focused all of my energy from each fingertip. I spread my leaves. Like a fern frond being born, I stretched and felt wild again.