Sacred Journeys: Exploring the Delights of Winter in CanadaKim Elkington December 19, 2019
I live at the edge of the Bonnechere River in the Ottawa Valley, and although I have been slow to prepare for the approach of winter it is clearly in full swing out by the water. This morning’s visit to the water revealed bold interwoven patterns of ice crystals expanding about 20 feet out from the shore. Truly expressive and original, some patterns were caused by curves as they responded to a rounded branch at the water’s edge, while others shot straight out like selenite fans.
Right now, the geese and ducks are still lingering, getting fattened up before their long flights. What began as two pairs and their offspring has now swelled to a flock of over 200 geese in the vicinity. They seem to know when the river will freeze over, often about two days before it does. I can tell by the volume and urgency of their night chatter as they read the signs and consult each other. Then, usually just before dawn, they rise like a great wind of wings, announcing to the valley and all they are leaving behind that they must be off and will return in the spring.
These days it’s harder to get up close to watch the geese because there’s very little tree cover since the beavers decided to make a clear-cut of all the birch and alders along my shoreline. They made their lodges bigger this year, likely to protect from the new torrent of water as the river’s banks swell and flood regularly now in the spring. Following their lead, I have put twice the mulch as usual around the roses and young fruit trees to prepare for a long winter. And the 2019/2020 Farmer’s Almanac agrees that it will be a memorable season for those of us who live in Ontario, similar to last year: long … with lots of snow that melts into ice, repeat. Sigh.
This year I am determined to appreciate the winter with all of its noisy winds, frosty blue skies, and wildly deep, icy snow. No excuses will be tolerated when it comes to getting outside for a hike or ski at least two days a week. As I learned last year, being outdoors is vital for our mental, emotional and spiritual health. Perhaps even more so in the winter.
Last year I had broken my ankle during an African adventure, and so I stayed indoors during recovery to avoid making it worse by slipping on the icy trails. But my body definitely did not thrive on living and exercising inside for five months.
Recently, I have begun to practise a breathing technique that will be a great friend as I move into this winter season. It is centred around being outside and connecting to the sun. Now that there are no leaves I am able to lean back against a tree facing the sun, and focus my attention around the third eye, while breathing in for 4, holding for 4, out for 4 and holding for 4, cycling in this way about twelve times.
Throughout the breathing I deepen into my awareness of the sun as a nutritive source of light and warmth, and also a source of cosmic intelligence and possible upgrades. Those last two attitudes help open dialogue and deepen my relationship with the sun. Folks who practice this sun-breathing technique claim to reach a point where they receive answers to their questions, from light itself! That sounds appealing to me, so part of my winter goal is to get into a rhythm of breathing the cosmos into the cells of my body and learning to decode all that wonderful information.
Following the breathing cycles, I focus on moving the sun’s energy through my body to the centre of the earth to ground it. Then I visualize a golden egg around my aura, as thick as I want, and then focus on each chakra and its colour being clear(ed) and radiant as I move from my base up to my crown. Our long winter nights make this the season of dreaming, and practising this exercise just before bed has changed my dreams. They are consistently both very pleasant and very lucid.
Other delights of winter revolve around getting warm, like sitting around wood fires, soaking in a detoxing salt bath (or a foot bath) and listening to audio books. One of my favourite things to do in the winter is to learn a new skill.
Last year I learned how to make moccasins. Right now I am not sure yet what my craft will be for this year, but learning to play the piano and learning some Spanish are on the short list. It’s always fun deciding which audio books to hear and in which order. It is best to download them and then turn off the Wi-fi and give yourself a break from that too. I hope you are all turning it off at night when you sleep.
(Ed note: The brain needs complete darkness and quiet in order to create melatonin – the hormone that helps you sleep and protects from cancer. Since cell phones emit a blue light, they should be kept out of the bedroom.)
So exercising outside, breathing in the sun, plus grounding and clearing before sleep, as well as long soaks in the tub, combined with catching up on some books and crafts are some commitments I am making to nourish myself and enhance the gifts of our longer nights this winter solstice season. Some of the most innovative ideas, and most wonderful stories, were born in the velvety dark of a long winter’s night.