In Between Seasons
I noticed something delightful a few days ago, the first day of spring. Silence. Specifically, the silence of walking on bare ground compared the raspy, crunchy, crackly noises of walking on ice and snow. It’s been months since I did not hear every single footstep I took outdoors.
Experientially, volume and traction seem to be connected. (Caveat: there’s no actual knowledge of science here, just observation that could be totally lost in confirmation bias!). Walking on a snowy/icy path in my winter boots has lots of noisy crunching, but not nearly as much as when I put micro spikes on. When I’m wearing micro spikes, I know my footsteps will be loud enough that I have to increase my normal speaking volume significantly. My classic cross country skis (which have scales on the bottom for grip) are much louder and slower than my fast, slippery, smooth bottomed skate skis. It seems that when moving through snow and ice, traction means loud. Which equates to greater safety. If I were to step on black ice in my clogs, the step itself wouldn’t make much noise. (Although my body crashing to the ground and my verbal reaction surely would.)
The winter season requiring foot traction has lasted the typical three months on the calendar, but my internal experience of winter has been going on much longer. (For more on the concept of winter seasons in an emotional life, I highly recommend the book ‘Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult TImes’ by Katherine May.) I’ve felt myself gripping and grasping for safety and stability for the better part of a year now, layered and shielded in the emotional equivalent of microspikes. I’ve needed that protection, as wounds heal and tender new parts form while the chaos of change swirls all around. It’s been noisy, in my head and my heart. The kind of noise that makes it hard to discern individual notes or tones. Like walking with micro spikes, it’s at a volume that allows me to keep moving forward safely—but doing so requires speaking/living a few decibels beyond what feels natural. I’m weary of both the noise and the effort required to move safely.
So, stepping onto bare ground today, walking in relative silence and ease, was an immediate and visceral reminder that I’ve been wearing microspikes, actually and emotionally, for a long time. Thankfully, winter does not last forever, in the external world or in my internal experience. Soon, there will be bare ground in all directions, as well as grass and flowers and colors and smells. Bird song and squirrel chatter and my dog’s footsteps will be easy to hear. I wonder what other songs, voices, and language will I be able to hear in this quieter, less shielded space? What delights have I unintentionally drowned out in my protective stance? And what brand new sounds will emerge, in this new season of life?
I am excited and relived to be emerging into a new season, and also want to remind mindful. I’ve given myself a lot of practice in protecting. It is and will continue to be easy to slip back into the emotional micro spikes as those motions are so ingrained and they fit my boots so well. I am experimenting with ways to remind my mind and body that it is no longer winter. I’m finding the snow free patches in my lawn and standing on the soft, wet, cold earth with my bare feet. I’m getting to know the spring bird neighbors that share the land around my new home. (This week I discovered that several American woodcocks love to sing and dance their mating ritual in range of my porch!)
Internally, I am trying to notice when I withdraw from social connection/self-reflection so I can pause and check in. Am I acting from a place of appropriately choosing some protection, or from learned/habituated reactivity? It is messy, and goes forwards and backwards, with moments of fresh joy and others of familiar freeze. So much like spring here in Maine! How helpful it feels to be emerging from my own winter season in alignment with the cycles of the earth. Are there ways the current seasonal changes mirror your own internal experiences?