I love the holidays. The glimmering lights, the joyful music, the gathering of friends and family – it’s a glorious, whirlwind experience, but equally glorious, though, is the season that comes after. When the last gift is opened, the last carol sung, and the last friend embraced, a deep, rapturous silence descends and a second season of peace begins.
It is providential that Christmas arrives in winter. The bare trees, the mellow sun, and the somber landscape are a blissful counterpoint to the sensory riot of the holidays. It is a time for rest and reflection; a time to reconnect with The Wild.
The lesson She teaches on these cold, short days is that every living thing needs time to rest. The birds at my feeder are busy on winter days, but the energy they expend cracking open sunflower seeds is nothing compared to the demands of courtship, mating, and nesting. Now the chickadees and titmice, the cardinals and crows only need to provide for themselves, a welcome break from their busy spring and summer lives. The trees are bare of their summer splendor, but they are resting too. They need less nourishment, less water, less sun to maintain their simple winter dress and their gnarled branches reach skyward as if in praise. The raccoons and possums, skunks and groundhogs are sleeping now. Warm in their dens, they too, are free from the endless round of courting, birthing, and raising their young. The Wild knows what humanity has forgotten.
We have forgotten that we need rest too. In our rush to live “productive” lives, we think it is a waste to have time on our hands. We are addicted to lives of constant motion, where every second is filled with a barrage of stimuli from televisions, computers, iPods, and cell phones. We think we are getting the most out of life, but in the end, we come up short when we do not take time to rest and drink in the beauty that surrounds us.
The Wild has existed for more than 4 billion years, homo sapiens for 200,000. With that in mind, I will take my counsel from the world of nature and as a new year approaches, I will go forward more slowly. I will remember to rest.
Photo: Evensong – by Julie Atkinson
Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ150; f/5.6, 1/800 sec, ISO 400