To drive in to the small town down the road we have to travel a steep and winding mountain road. This can make winter treacherous. After three weeks of snow, sleet, hail, rain and ice, the road has been, shall I, say less than inviting. But the sun has been out for several days now and the road is cleared and red with long, wet pine needles and sand-like material laid down to prevent ice build-up. Yesterday I drove into the nearby town for an appointment.
Having climbed the steep road out, I saw the undulating valley below as a panoramic sheet of white, punctuated with tall green pines and sliced by the winding ribbon of red I was driving along. The wonder of it stole my breath for a moment. What a blessing this hardship called winter, I thought.
Upon my return, climbing up the mountain and descending into our valley, I put the road, the mountain, the snow, and the danger aside in my mind, replaying instead the events of the meeting. But as I descended deeper and deeper into the bowels of the mountain's folds, my breath caught once again in my thoat. Crystaline walls of snow banks lined the road, rising high on both sides, so there was nothing in sight but snow everywhere wrapping me like swaddling cloth in a womb-like warmth.
I don't remember ever feeling so at peace, so safe and secure, so perfectly welcome. In this seemingly inhospitable towering winter landscape, I knew I am at home. I am returning to my hypernating place. My growing, nurturing place where I am safe, where I belong.
I wonder if we don't each have a place where we belong. A place that by its very being restores us, where we can curl up like the tiny ground squirrel tucked away for winter in the insulation under our sheltered water pipe.
Or like the ducks on the poor mutilated lake in the meadow below our house. Once a summer and shimmering blue of a Southern California sky, it is now a black pit of mud and slime. It's being dredged of the silt that has accumulated in it over the years. Surrounded now as it is in snow, it looks like an monsterous glash of filthy debris. But there, still and at rest in a tiny circle of icy water, sit our ducks.
If you would like to read more about the power of place in our lives and our psyche, I recommend Terrapsychology: Reengaging The Soul Of Place by Craig Chalquist