But before we begin the new series, today, as a brief interlude between the new series and the one that just ended on Longevity, we have an article guest written by poet and essayist Susan Jefts, entitled Go to Where Your Spirit is Invited to Open Up.
Susan, whose work has appeared on the Low Density Lifestyle website before, most recently with her article that featured her poems, The Poetic Nature of Life, is a poet who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY. She runs writing groups in therapeutic and community settings using poetry as a tool for exploring life issues and healing.
Susan teaches writing and advises students for Empire State College and has had her poetry published in several journals and books regionally and throughout the country, including Big City Lit, Parnassus Literary Journal, The Hudson River Anthology and Metroland, among others.
Her website is www.saratogapoetryroom.com.
There’s nothing more central to living a Low Density Lifestyle than having a sense of inner peace. This article is about finding that sense of peace in the silence and stillness of winter.
Here now is Susan’s article, Go to Where Your Spirit is Invited to Open Up:
Sometimes it’s in the most unlikely months and times of year that our spirits are invited to open up the widest. For instance, I think winter can in many ways be a time of discovery. Of being taken unexpectedly, much like a good poem, to new places both inner and outer.
Like many people, I have mixed feelings about winter. But I believe that certain experiences of this season can carry us, if we let them, into both the magical landscapes around us and the deeper regions of our hearts.
It is true that there is indescribable beauty to be found on a snow-covered lake while small clouds dance with sunlight on the summits high above you. Everything literally glistens, and the silence is impossible to describe. I can only think of it as the kind that one finds while moving into deep meditation. Only you get to keep your eyes open.
I am thinking of a particular place in the high peaks area of the Adirondacks, one that has been with me since I skied there with friends on a sunny thirty-degree day in early January. Although, really it has been with me since I first hiked there one summer almost twenty years ago. But this was the first time I had been there in winter.
After the 3 1/2 mile ski on an old road through the woods, we arrived at the long narrow lake, its icy cliffs and steep mountains hugging the shoreline. I had never been out on the lake and knew this was a big part of why I’d come. To ski down that long frozen waterway, to experience the intense beauty of this setting from deep inside it rather than from the shore, where you can only look longingly down its length.
I’ve always been drawn to exploring lakes, but certain ones hold a unique allure, and this was one of them. It had to do, I think, with the particular arrangement of water, cliffs and mountains. And the presence of several high peaks looming above, invoking a strong feeling of awe and wonderment. But it has to do with something else, too, that I’ve been trying for years to name.
I set off skiing down the lake below its hovering cliffs with no audible sound but my own breath-ing and the swish of my skis. My friends had chosen to stay behind on the shore to eat their lunch, and while I had been delighting in our camaraderie and sharing that day, I didn’t mind set-ting off for a while on my own. Every few feet was a new experience for the senses: a cliff of ice reflecting the blue gray hues of the clouds, a small rush of cold air in the shadows, a feeling of inner expansiveness as I rounded a bend allowing me to see further down the lake.
This place had for a long time beckoned me with a force and beauty I couldn’t quite comprehend. I had read stories about others’ adventures down this lake and onto the next, the two separated by only a few hundred yards. And from there to who knows where. More lakes, mountains and passageways.
There are energies, I feel, that are unique to places like this. Some are from the glacially formed lake, some from the jagged mountains, some from the transient clouds changing the weather from one minute to the next. The longer I stayed, the more I felt the confluence of these energies within me.
There is an honesty in places like this that becomes almost palpable. It’s in the landscape and it starts to be in you too. You are alone and you are quiet. You feel an immensity that is undeniable. It presses down upon you, or lifts you up; perhaps you’re not sure which. I’ve often felt that mountains have spirits, and much more influence in our lives than we are aware.
I recently read a reviewer’s description of an actor in an off-Broadway play who said his performance was so complete that it had a tendency to highlight the deficiencies of the actors around him. Although I wouldn’t choose to think of people or nature in terms of deficiencies, perhaps a bit of an analogy can be made. In a place of such natural resplendence, one affect can be that our lives are reflected back to us. We can see where we feel replete and impassioned, and where we don’t. Sometimes I think I come to such places in part to learn this: to feel what is going on in my life, or not going on.
At times I’ve come away from such places with only what I arrived with and maybe a renewed appreciation for nature, and sometimes that’s been enough. But lately, like this time, I’ve come away with something more. A feeling of inner expansiveness and far reaching beauty, and a greater sense of what I’m capable of in ability and in compassion. Of harnessing possibility and passion and putting it to meaningful use.
I have felt this at times from other experiences, like meditation and yoga, but something about this was different; it was as sensuous as it was spiritual, like a great sky and lake had opened up inside of me.
And a few weeks later, they are still with me.
Winter truly can be an opening into new regions of ourselves. It might happen through an outdoor adventure as it did for me, or a more subtle experience. There are opportunities in the depths of the cold and darkness, or the brilliance of a glittering day. My experience would not have been the same in July. The energy of winter is unique and deeply spiritual.
What I learned from that day is this: Go to where your spirit feels invited to open up, wherever that might be.