Thursday, December 26, 2013

Optimistic tundra

I wouldn't trade these frosty winter morning views
for all the palm trees in Hawaii.

A frostbitten year in review

I’ve made my home in the woods. When I came back almost two years ago I did not plan to stay long. This place was a sanctuary, a haven, familiar and safe, but I did not plan to stay. I came here to rest, think, and regroup. Returning from the cities, my eyes were reopened to the majesty of the wild. I spent almost all of my time outdoors and I loved every second of it.

Back then I was searching, clawing, hungry. I was redefining my life. All I felt were growing pains and heart aches. I didn’t know where I was headed, all I had in front of me was the present - the current of life in motion - and that’s exactly what I needed.

I learned how to be in the present without my past defining everything and without the future overwhelming me. I wrote to you about it often, and that helped put things into perspective.

With that perspective came a chance to begin to see things clearly, as if for the first time. Like a clear winter day, when the frost crusts over everything and the sun comes out, the whole world shimmers in the daylight. It’s blinding, when the sun hits the snow covered world - it’s as blinding as the truth, and it gives fuel to optimism.

To remain resolute in optimism I think we have to be ok with constantly reassessing our goals. That is, not exactly redefining them but checking in from time to time to be sure that what we’re aiming for is still close to our own truths - what we really believe. I think a good way to do this is setting aside some time to review the progress of our lives at the end of the year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Deck the halls

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Traditions, customs - two words that come to mind this time of year. Christmas is a time to honor tradition. Many of us return to our families, to old places we used to call home. We take part in feasts. We try to relax and enjoy each other despite our many differences, and we celebrate life, love, and the year’s end.

Last year at this time I shared my own story of Christmas tradition. I detailed the many observances I grew up with in my parent’s house as a child, an adolescent, and eventually an adult. Those traditions stayed basically the same from year to year. I have a sister who ensured this. She actually made a list one year of all the things that had to be done, wrapped, baked, etc. and at the precise time and order in which each duty was to be executed.

For years we’ve eaten turkey and stuffing at my mom’s house on Christmas eve. Whether that happens before or after church depends on the time of the service, though normally I think we stuck with after so as to avoid the effects of tryptophan (the sleepy stuff in turkey) during the homily. We would always open gifts from each other after dinner, and as of recent years, now that everyone’s grown up, the evening has been capped with what we’ve come to call “Christmas cheer,” a mixed drink brewed up by yours truly.

Christmas on my dad’s side of the family has it’s customs as well. The men take up shotguns and chase cottontails in the snow. Grandpa loves ham so we usually have that, and sometimes, smoked salmon. The house is always packed to the brim with aunts, uncles, cousins, and significant others. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe there are so many people. Grandpa sleeps in the camper - swears the cold doesn’t bother him near as much as all the snoring in the house.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Setting your sights

A sunset over some winter weather lowlands,
A clear December afternoon, 
A good way to clear a mind.

Focus from the frost

I like to work in the winter. The snow absorbs sound outside, our windows are sealed, and the indoors are more silent and still than any other part of the year. This stillness is conducive to interpretation, which allows the mind a chance to catch up with itself - and that’s what I call focus.

Focus can be looked at like a tool, a tool with which to pick things apart. If you’re a thinking sort of person, you get a lot of enjoyment out of this because the focus lets you think through things. It is from a place of enjoyment and also a sort of duty that you turn things over in your head, sometimes for days. It’s sort of like tinkering if you’re a tinkerer, or fixing if you’re a fixer.

In fact this sort of mindless repetition of focus on one thing comes to you so easy you’re hardly aware it’s happening most of the time. Especially if you spend a lot of time alone, you’ll wrestle around with some concepts in an endless pattern until a more pressing matter forces itself to the prow of your consciousness.

This state of being can be both good and bad, as you’re likely to find yourself hung up on one particular issue if you’re unable to take action on it. For instance, sometimes it’s a book list you’ve really been meaning to get to, or a letter you’ve been meaning to write. Maybe it’s a project, like finishing up on your new ice shack or even finding a way to repay a favor to a friend.

On the one hand you’re afforded a great deal of concentration on your topic, but on the other you become a bit useless until you’ve brought to light some fruition, some manifestation of whatever it is that’s drawn all your attention. This sounds sort of debilitating (and it is), but I think it’s a good thing.

Nobody uninspired has ever done much in the way of inspiring others...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Great white north

Winter weather land has arrived right on time.

Get on the train or be left at the station

One of the greatest benefits of living in Wisconsin’s great white north is, to be blunt, the great whiteness. White-out snow conditions can blast through with little to no warning, stay all day and night, and leave nary a hint of the normal landscape left recognizable. Yes, that's a benefit.

It’s a benefit because the world becomes new, and from new things inspiration springs eternal. Our surroundings change in appearance and our daily routines change out of necessity. We become more dependent upon each other, so our interactions shift. Suddenly a neighborly gesture such as shoveling a walk or driveway carries a lot more weight; resources like foodstuffs, outdoor clothing, and plenty of hot beverages become essential.

Now, it’s easy to take these things for granted, or even (commonly) grumble about them. Trust me, it’s not my favorite thing to be pushing heavy, wet, frozen precipitation around for six months a year, but I think the innate qualities that come with it are worth the extra work.