In the bizarre winter of 2017, I had a few firsts. One was cross country skiing in the rain, while wearing a raincoat. What! Rain, here in January and February, near Gunnison, often the coldest spot in Colorado and sometimes in the nation? Second, so warm that one day in February I post holed through [sunk into] thigh deep snow, on the pathway to my studio. I've never shoveled in hip waders before, but they were appropriate attire.
The winter of 2018 is equally strange. A serious shortage of snow and unseasonably warm weather prevails. I'm wondering how the trees, plants and wildlife will fare this summer, if the drought continues. How many wells will be dry? How alarmingly insufficient will irrigation water be? How scarce, the wildflowers?
What to do, to navigate the weirdness of non-winter? To bring some balance to the elements? Some practices:
-Appreciate the weather, no matter what. Welcome the wind as a carrier of clouds. Where there are clouds there is hope for precipitation, right?
- Unplug, go outside and breathe. Slow down, notice and have gratitude for anything that is alive, that catches your attention. Feel how our bodies connect to the natural world, how our bones are like those of animals and birds, that we breathe the same air and need pure water, for life.
-Imagine nature being in balance, with enough moisture and sun. Envision your environment thriving and full of energy. Like people, nature responds to love and presence. Yeah, fellow tree huggers. Skeptics? A deep experience, if you're intentional about it.
I continue to chop wood to heat my studio and carry water for painting, but do very little shoveling, to get in the door. [Isn't being an artist glamorous?] Here's to some snowfall and knocking the dust off of my shovel. Here's to environmental balance and healthy eco-systems.
Snowmaggedon. That's what this epic storm is being called locally. 92”, up at the ski area and counting, and at least 5 feet here, in a week. It may be a record breaker. Fences are disappearing and even the magpies are silent, waiting it out. In time, its intensity may be forgotten, but, for now, its immensity is all encompassing.
Up on a roof top, my feelings circle from being a bit bad-ass, [hey, look at all the snow I've moved!] to dumb-dumb, [why am I still shoveling roofs!?] to overwhelm- the snow keeps coming at about an inch per hour.
An eagle glides overhead, straight above me. I say a silent hello and am filled with gratitude, for this gift.
Snow slows everyone and everything down, except for the foxes, that run lightly across feet of deepening snow without sinking. I am reminded that control is a human construct, that nature can change things in an instant, creating avalanches, collapsing buildings and causing unexpected accidents on the roads. Nature teaches vigilance, awareness and non-complacency. A choice- to be flexible or to struggle against it?
I take some deep breaths and begin to shovel again. I imagine every scoop as not only clearing away snow, but to remove the weight of the emotional and mental baggage that I still carry. My body feels stronger. The sun will come out again on some tomorrow. I'm ready.
It is fun to experiment and try out groupings of found and altered objects and interesting to see how they change through time.
I've been playing with making temporary sculptures, combining objects and elements in a variety of combinations, without being attached. Others may be connected together and completed, but their temporary nature comes from being outside, as they are weathered and layered with snow.
Hoar frost transforms branches and wire surrounding my garden fence.
Someday, this may become the start of a deer in the headlights sculpture...
High altitude gardening is wild and unpredictable.
In the high country, there are few flowers in early to mid May. Yet, spring fever is everywhere and in everyone, despite gusting wind, snow flurries, ground squalls, rain, hail and gropple. Those who can, leave. The rest of us stay, with a crazy mix of pride for being tough and impatience for warm weather, which runs as deep and wild as the rivers' runoff.
The growing season here is short, with maybe sixty or so frost free nights. But, despite the climate and weather, the early risers emerge, including garlic.
Oh, garlic! The joy of seeing its straight, green shoots, popping up through mulch and snow. The promise of fat, purple cloves, to last throughout the year. The spiraling scapes, those lovely, pungent curls, to be sauteed and eaten in July.
Perennials are showing up daily in my garden, thrilling to see emerge! So far there are bunching onions, chives, oregano and columbine. Strawberries, thyme and dianthus. Iris, salvia and parsley.
Why do any of us plant, water and nourish, high above sea level, with only 60 plus frost free nights? We may be overly optimistic and tenacious, but there is something extraordinary about getting your hands in the dirt, where the ground is frozen and unseen much of the year. There is something deeply satisfying, magical, ancestral and eternal about growing food and nurturing flowers, that connects a person to the elements of the earth and its life cycles that can be accessed in no other way.
Mandala for Inspiration
For inspiration, during the beginning, middle or end of a project or cycle. To access inner knowing and guidance.
Take a few, deep breaths. Look at the mandala and feel yourself being filled with uplifting, expansive energy. Envision the energy flowing outward, into your environment and endeavors, into their ripe and open spaces.
Well, people have been saying that here, for years. At which temperature is too cold determined? I told Piper this story, last year when he came here. You can see in his photo that he didn't believe me. Usually, by February, -20 to -30 nights are behind us, but not this year. Brrrr.
I was just outside, around 5:30 p.m. The thermometer was hovering near zero and, you guessed it, it was snowing. I went out to wrap another horse's leg who has a wound that needed bandaging. This horse is a star patient and not at all fazed by the cold. Not me. My attire for this activity? Long underwear, fleece pants. Fleece pullover and jacket. Coveralls and over sized parka. Hat and boots, rated to 20 below.
The good news? The landscape is spectacular when the air is frigid, especially after our recent 18” of snow. Thirty above will feel warm, when it comes!
Alice laughed. “There's no use trying,” she said. “One can't believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven't had much practice,” said the Queen.”When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
-Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland
From my experience, among other things, being an artist requires believing in what others consider impossible. Included, of course, is making visible what has not been seen before. So too, can be thinking somewhat differently than those that are more conventional. Some members of society are meant to maintain and embrace solidity and structure. Others, such as artists, are meant to make waves, to keep implosion and stagnancy from happening.
So then, how do we each define and determine our individual versions of what is possible and impossible? Why can it be easier to believe in limiting fears, rather than new, expansive possibilities? I do know that people who see, sense and support potential create openings for others into the seemingly impossible, allowing questions to arise that can challenge and change previously held beliefs.
I'm doing a daily practice of noticing old thought patterns and limitations and believing in the possibilities of impossible things. When doubt and fear arise, I'm engaging in outrageous and optimistic imagining. Why not?
Stellar Guardian, acrylic on canvas, Carol Connor
The Solstice is approaching!
In the meantime, during these longest nights, just as the new moon is waxing, it is a glorious time to see and appreciate the stars. In the midst of preparing for and celebrating the holidays, this is a lovely respite in the midst of activity.
There's something about looking upward at the night sky that evokes a sense of timelessness, eternity and perspective.
May you “ride the Night Mare. See with owl eyes. Dream with sleeping bear.”
Being self-employed, like most everything in life, has advantages and disadvantages, right? Some of us tend to not wear all of the necessary hats equally well and sometimes avoid putting some on at all.
A wise, self employed friend recently told me that she does one challenging task daily, one that that is frustrating, unpleasant or a struggle, the kind that you think you can't do or do well, that feels constricting and causes dread, brings on procrastination and gets you reaching for the cookie jar, distracted by social media or running outside, far from your computer.
You know what? I'm finding that she's right! The surge of energy, the sense of accomplishment, then relief that follows is empowering, when taking on even the smallest of actions. The “yuck” responses within me are lessening, as new skills increase. I'm liking not carrying the weight of avoidance and making more progress with goals and intentions.