Years ago, my ‘wasband’ (former husband) and I did retreat for a winter at Vallecitos Mountain Ranch, snowed in. The ranch had no satellite phone in those days. We were alone in the wilderness, with months of food and gear pulled in on sleds behind the two snowmobiles that carried us through the forest and off the grid, 13 miles from paved road.
Day after day, we practiced mindful sitting and walking meditation. On icy mornings, we cross-country skied for miles across the pristine mountains, the snow sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight. On windless days, the winter world was silent; birds flown away, flies gone, chipmunks hibernating, squirrels tucked in, bees shivering in their hives. Since we were silent, too, the only sound I heard was skis sliding softly through new powder, the tiny white ice crystals compacting and creaking slightly under my weight.
Preparing a talk a few days ago, I read from the Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood: “The Eskimos* had 52 names for snow because it was important to them, there ought to be as many for love.” Learning to meditate, to be mindful, means learning to love: to pay attention, to see what’s real, and trust what’s true.
As I walk along a sun-dappled path at our Vallecitos retreat, it’s summer now. A mourning cloak butterfly flits in front of me onto an aspen tree. She chooses a spot where a hungry deer or elk chewed a winter snack, leaving a black gash in the white bark. Slowly, sensuously, she opens and closes dazzling black wings edged in lacey white. She and the tree trunk are perfectly matched in the sunlight – is this love? Does she know she’s protected?
May you, too, be safe and protected. May we appreciate and protect our nature, a vast, gorgeous placenta nourishing our growth!
*Inuit people is a preferred name but it doesn’t include the Yupik people, so ‘Eskimo’ is still in use in Alaska.
Image Credit: T. Goodman