January dusts the ground with one light, final blanket of snow and bids the earth’s children sweet dreams. They’re nestled in well now for their long winter sleep.
Gazing down at them, she tenderly smiles and tucks the dusk around them. “Rest well, dear ones,” she softly sings. “Sleep deeply, and build your strength, for Spring will come before you know.”
Then she turns and sweeps away, her splendid gown trailing behind her.
She tucks her gems everywhere. You can find them in places that you would least expect to hold beauty. Deep inside the earth. In decaying tree trunks. Under the microscope. Under the sea.
It’s all she know how to do.
Revel in the gifts so flagrantly given. Raindrops on a tree branch. Landscapes. Sunsets. The way the moon sails through a starry sky.
But take time, too, to look for the subtler treasures. The ones hidden in shadows. The ones that come disguised. The very small and easily discounted.
Because, you know, she tucks her gems everywhere.
January hauled in a warm spell and, in one fell swoop, melted all the snow. Poof! Just like that, it was gone.
“Party Time!” one of the squirrels yelled. “High noon, at the shelter!”
He didn’t have to yell it twice. The squirrel clan is always ready to party and the disappearance of the snow was a great excuse. After all, now they didn’t have to dig for their dinner. They could just grab it on the fly.
So they gathered at noon and stuffed themselves silly. You have to take advantage when good fortune comes your way.
“There’s no telling what tricks January still has up her sleeve,” they said to one another. “And that wench, February, is hot on her heels.”
“You got that right,” they all agreed. “Pass me another pine cone, Billy.”
And they ate and ate and ate, until their bellies would hold no more.
Their dreams, once so vivid and clear, spun themselves out, growing ever more nebulous and abstract. Bright feathers and seed pods drifted into a montage of gently swirling hues, their shapes disappearing altogether.
The sights and sounds of spring, summer and autumn slowly dissolved into an invisible whirlpool that led down, down, down into a realm of velvet darkness. And in its clarity and peace, they slept, floating on the breath of being.
And here they remembered who they truly were and tasted once again the essence from which they had come.
This week, January’s gallery featured her new piece of installation art. Beside a waterfall, she hung cascading ice, brilliant and sparkling above a partially frozen black pool. Then, for just a touch of color and to vary the textures, she hung a pine branch above it all, and a tangle of wiry branches dotted with red berries just before it.
It was a hit with everyone who was lucky enough to see it. And the critics’ reviews were raves: “January turned what most view as a bleak and forbidding landscape into a masterpiece of exquisitely detailed and perfectly lighted forms,” one wrote. Another said, “We were astonished by the mix of elements. And the music of the waters was sublime.”
And we couldn’t help but agree with the third one, who said, “January always surprises. We wait with bated breath to see what she’ll do next.”
The clouds, which just yesterday hung in fluffy blankets across the whole sky, have fallen to earth. We walk through their residue now, kicking it up in dazzling displays, watching the sparkling lint on its edges melt into the stream.
The child in you bends to scoop fingerfulls of it onto your tongue. Your face breaks into a broad grin, and you say, “Eating clouds,” as if you had just licked a poem.
There is too much beauty here to speak it. All we can do is let our minds flow free in the clear and spacious air as it opens before us.
The pond is silent now. Blue shadows stretch across its frozen face. Along its banks, trackless snow glistens beneath the pines.
Everything is hushed and still, even the wind, as if the life force itself has retreated from the cold.
But then a sudden flutter of crimson wings breaks the silence, and a red bird settles on a thin stem of brush and sings.
And its song fills all the spaces with its joy.
To balance the white ground of winter, I give you flamboyant skies. To balance your days full of motion, I give you restful, star-spangled nights.
I compensate your deserts with deep, rolling seas. I paint your mundane realities with dreams.
In the midst of your loneliness, I offer you compassion. In the midst of confusion, I offer you my laws.
To compensate your limitations, I give you eternity and an infinite world. To anchor you in the midst of it, I give you my endless love.
In a dimension just a half-step away, the little elementals practice their forest forms. Within a given set of parameters—pine, fern, moss–they are free to express themselves however they will.
After each group has settled on a form, their goal is to hold it steadily, even as they grow the form larger and larger. It’s not an easy task for them to hold a central identity even as it grows. So many distractions compete for their attention—the swirl of planets and stars above them, the ever-present dancing of the winds, the itch to look and see how their companions are doing.
But with practice their skills grow. And the allure of mastery calls them. For once they pass their final exams, the great frost birds will transport them to earth. There they will fulfill their ultimate dream of hosting a life-spark, and through it, win the prize of experiencing life itself, as a tree, as a fern, as a flower.
Who, they wonder, could wish for more? And only eons later, will they find that out.
Unlike most of the forest’s plant creatures, pines don’t sleep deeply all winter through. For them, it’s more like snoozing, a little bit of drifting into dreams and silence, a little bit of waking to see what’s going on.
When Little Pine woke from one of his snoozes, he was snuggled inside a wonderful drift of snow. He was far too comfortable there even to think about getting up. He was perfectly content merely to gaze at the contours of the forest floor, made so round and smooth by the snow.
He loved the way that it sparkled in the sunlight, and the way that the deep shadows stretched across it.
In fact, he was looking at the shadows in particular when he realized that he could make designs in the snow just by wiggling, under his blanket, this way or that. He created all sorts of imaginary creatures and held imaginary conversations with them.
The last one, and the best in his mind, was a rabbit. He held his upper branches just so to make its ears. After the rabbit and he had chatted for a little while, Little Pine felt himself growing drowsy. So he bid the rabbit goodbye, snuggled back into his snowy blanket, and drifted away into his world of winter dreams.