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Only the leaves are dead.
In the sublime, distant dawning of a winters day, I find stillness.
There is a time of year that, year after year, I yearn for; the period over Christmas, running into the start of the new year. The world goes quiet. And the swathe of winter landscape extends an invitation inward.
Every season bestows its own beauty, plays to us the tune of its own mood. In this midwinter, there is nothing bleak. Though light may be constrained, the short hours of its daily presence offer up an enriching vista. Day breaks with faint orange on the horizon, seaming into the pale blue sky, a vast expanse of spectral illumination. This is an invitation back into the world; and away from the world.
Distance. The distant, low winter sun, set in a crisp azure sheen of sky, creates a panoramic perception of space. There is relief in this clearance, respite from the restlessness of my unrelenting mind. Distance, from the world, and from my Self. In this distance, I return to myself.
It is not just the opulent optics of the winter’s day that are present. Petrichor - the smell of damp soil - wafts up from the musty, dew-soaked earth, merging with the sweet hickory fragrance of burning wood hanging in the air. Intoxicating. And the silence, the slower moving cold air subtly influencing the passage of sound, augmenting the sound of silence, the sense of stillness.
To think winter barren is to miss its beauty. Deep, dark browns merge with cold blues and dense greens, set against a watercolour of greyscale stratus cloud in a cerulean sky.
To think winter desolate is to miss its message. The naked trees stand as a reminder of the integrity in renewal, in solitude.
Stripped of the aesthetic vanity of their foliage, winter trees convey a gravitas, composed and dignified, their branches and twigs revealed as the dendrites and axons of nature’s nervous system. The modesty of the bare forest conveys a message of impermanence; the superficiality of the leaves is transient.
And a reminder that, laid bare, weathering the storm of time requires roots, interconnectedness. The trees will long outlive us. But they will also die, eventually. Impermanence. What of my Self can be shed and decompose in this earth?
In the serenity of this sensory smorgasbord, tranquility awaits. For now is the winter of my content.