Skeletons of some my favorite wild foods still stand in February unbothered by the snow. Browned withered stalks and burst vacant seed pods offer clues for next season's eating. Lifeless, these standing crowds of destined mulch, are billboards for the vibrant creatures napping snuggly under layers of snow and soil, readying for a spring growth spurt.
Anticipating March sap runs, I begin incubating dreams of the green world. I fantasize about tasting and developing relationships with new plants and seeing my old plant friends in new ways. I plot opportunities to share my love of plants with others and scout for future foraging spots.
Plants also begin to appear in my dreams. Last year, in early February, I dreamt of three foot tall Japanese Knotweed shoots. It was an anxiety dream; with the stretches of mild, sometimes frighteningly warm weather that year, my seasonal rhythms felt disturbed and I worried about missing out on Spring unfolding. I also felt an unreadiness and forced pressure, similar to the dreaded test dream: showing up for a midterm exam without ever having been to class all semester!
The message of the shoot: It’s time to grow, get busy, and muscle through the crust of winter. This is not, however, the time of the shoot. We are still squarely in seed time.
Yet, the chaotically fluctuating climate of recent years disturbs our sense and experience of the seasonal cycles. The quality of winter is changing, calling us towards more activity here in the Northeast when we are used to solid slumber. It's no longer pure hibernation and show stopping snow dumps.
Like the nightmare of seasonally inappropriate Japanese Knotweed, the political clamor of recent months has challenged this natural cycle too. The urgency and righteousness I associate with Spring came early this year and at times I've found difficultly respecting the season's important lesson of rest, overwhelmed by daily calls to action.
How can we flexibly maneuver new responsibilities with both vigor and tempered wisdom of the long view? How can we flow with the energy of winter, without ignoring the house fire we find ourselves in?
The challenge of integrating and responding to more information in the winter than usual, I am honing in on the value of developing routine and discipline, effective prioritizing, and the surprise gnosis from spacious quiet. This last piece might be the most important for my own learning. The answers that come from what on the surface appears to be inaction but instead is a deep listening. The magical world of dreams where space and time bend and the world speaks to us.
Winter is a time for capacity building; the part of our cycle when we discover how to be more effective, not through mind over matter or tireless pushing but by humbly allowing and opening.
When I find myself on a hamster wheel of activity, of reacting with a need to know the answers and feeling scarcity of time to give due thoughtfulness, I remember to check the cultural values that fabricate this urgency and do or die mindset. Consideration of how my process and approach holds me and those I organize with back or perpetuates the very qualities I abhor, is vital to any work I'd want to be a part of.
It's true there are huge responsibilities and numerous opportunities for deeper engagement. This is excellent, and groundswell of change is upon us. Let us remember the value of rest, not as a built in weakness that our faulty, mortal bodies require to keep chugging along, but as a crucial piece of being here on earth---it's how we feed connection to ourselves and each other, where we remember restraint and good timing, and where we find insights in stillness.
August Kekulé discovered the nature of the Carbon benzene ring, a major contribution to the field of chemistry, while day dreaming. He imagined the symbol of Ouroboros, of a snake eating its own tail, and suddenly after years of study, the structure of carbon was revealed to him.
Direction or solutions sometimes can't be discovered through concentrated thinking or tireless hammering. When we rest and let go, we open to the novelty of the moment and uncover new ways of seeing.
Carly lives and eats from a hilltop in Cummington, Massachsuetts and part time in Schenectady, NY.