Last night while I laid back in our old wood-fired clawfoot tub and felt the giant snowflakes falling on my face in the dark I was entirely consumed by how beautiful and precious these long nights and cold air are to me. All around me in the evergreen forests of my home, the snow fell silently and the ice grew a little further over the surface of the river that runs through the center of the canyon.
While I’ve always enjoyed the quiet and beauty of Winter, it seems to me that this particular cold season is the most pleasurable and lovely I’ve ever experienced. Part of this is no doubt simply due to how much I needed the slowing down that this time of the year brings for our family. Another aspect is my deepening relationship with the special medicine of the snow moons. It’s so easy for us plant-obsessed folks to feel abandoned by their herbal allies as they recede into dormancy. This combined with the lack of sunlight and insane way in which our culture insists we keep up the pace of Summer is a dangerous equation that often results in depression, lethargy and sadness.
Along with building up adequate Vit D levels for the first time in years, I’ve been immersing myself in the pleasure of the long nights with evening walks in the snow by star and moonlight. Climbing trees and gazing out over the sparkling canyon, or sitting for long periods of time examining the growth patterns of lichen or the slow descent of leaking resin have also assisted me in staying connected to the plant I love. Evergreen medicine, food and scents have been nigh on an obsession this Winter, with Loba and I competing for who can make the tastiest Fir-flavored treats and me working feverishly to figure out the most effective ways of infusing the scent and medicine of the evergreens, lichens and resins into all of my current projects.
Creating hand-ground incense from local plants to burn on the woodstove, formulating coniferous forest inspired perfumes and an endless stream of new elixirs, syrups and vinegars are all ways I’ve been engaging my senses and enjoying the current season. Our family enthusiastically celebrates the Solstice but leaves out the baggage-laden gift giving tradition which frees us all up to spend more time just indulging in the pleasures of long evenings together, seasonal food and inventing every possible White Fir flavored recipe.
Barks and roots, lichen and mushrooms, resin and sap, needles and boughs are my lights in this fertile, rich darkness of Winter. In too many years past, I found myself wishing for the season to pass me by in sleep and to live in perpetual green and constant flowering. While I certainly realized all the reasons why the land and we humans need the rest and time turned inwards, I met this shift in seasons with a certain amount of resistance and defiance. This year I finally realize, gut-deep, how much I benefit by the sweet silence and visceral rooting that can take place only now. Such a huge shift has left me not only enjoying the snow and dark, but relishing it and realizing I’ll actually feel sadness when the wheel turns and the next season emerges, even as I welcome the return of the light.
These pictures tell the story of a few of my recent rambles through the white mantled forest of my canyon home and the life that surges through the land even during the coldest nights.
A great way to become more deeply connected to the seasons while studying earth-centered herbalism is by taking the Weaving the Wheel of the Year course with my long-time friend and Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference teacher, Darcey Blue!