Friday, February 19, 2021

A 'Downy Flake': Finding My Way Back to Joy in February

He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise. 

William Blake

Yesterday was tough. It would be easy to blame it on the weather, but it was really a series of bad choices, with a lack of good weather to brighten and make up for them.

Small, small steps...

the wrong direction.

No doubt, some of it was getting the tooth pulled and having to recover.  But some of it was what I chose to dwell upon.  I know better, too. In winter, when the days are gray and short, we have to be aggressive about pursuing joy, and avoiding that line between. 

I woke up ready to change directions and run towards whatever is good--far, far away from the line.

To start, I spent less time reading my phone and drinking coffee and got right down to a guided meditation (it was about not allowing past choices to affect this moment). I meditated, prayed, and then walked on the treadmill. While walking, I watched a show about NDE's--Near Death Experiences. (As I continued my day, the stories and research provided something positive to dwell upon--and to discuss with my husband during our hike.)

Mid-morning, I started down the bad path again--analyzing my morose and trying to find the culprit.  I was looking for answers--easy to find--easy to point fingers at this or that and that and this. My mind went everywhere, like a runaway puppy heading towards a busy street, out of a safe pasture, and not knowing to heed the call of its master.

The shutdown, that had to be the source of ALL misery--no live music from our beloved symphony--no projected date to start up again. No live theater. No Gaiser Conservatory--where we'd go to bask in the warmth and glow of live tropical plants in winter.  No coffee get-togethers with friends.  Rarely seeing my family.

I started to feel very...robbed.

But I had errands to run, so I showered, dressed, and headed out.

Something interesting happened on my errands. I had a pickup at the first store, and I donned my mask for it. But the second store, Lowes, where I was sent to get supplies for the shower project, I somehow forgot my mask and had NO CLUE the entire time I was there. No one looked at me like, OH NO, it's an ANTI-masker! Shame! Shame!

I got zero looks.

I didn't even realize I was maskless until I returned to my car and saw my mask laying there on the seat. I touched my face and just went NOOOO!!  Then, on the way home, I reflected back on the above--what does it mean that no one looked at my masklessness or made a big deal of it? Are we in some new stage of this process?  ...did I remember to wash my hands? I going to get Covid?!?

While I was there shopping...maskless...I couldn't find what I was sent to get, but like Jack and the Beanstalk, I did find this...(Jack's mother must have sent him out to sell the cow in February.)

Flamingo-Lily. or Painter's-pallette. Or Tailflower. It will join my other February blues purchases from years past.  I have 3 now: Calla lily, a palm, and this flamingo-lily.

I've been able to get a few hikes in per week, and when I finished my errands, I asked my husband if he'd like to go on another. I wasn't really feeling it, but I knew it would be helpful to get distance from that line. Of course, he absolutely wanted to go. He has the February blues, too, but doesn't talk about it.

Off we went to the Pinebluff trailhead, where I have ridden my horses many, many, many times, and the memories of them--Cowboy, especially--flooded over me at each snow-covered corner.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

Oh, the times we've been up and down this little hill, adjacent to the now quiet, dry Deep Creek (below is the quiet creed bed.)

The Deep Creek Overlook where we'd peer out over the Spokane River and tower above the creek, which feeds it.

At the end of our hike, we came to this path. 

This path holds a sad story, and one that haunts me on every trail ride. When we moved to Spokane, almost 15 years ago, a tragedy had just occurred where a woman--a hardcore eventer--excellent horsewoman--"married to a farrier"--had been out winter riding alone, as she usually did, but her horse slipped, fell, and crushed her. The many people who related the story to me said "it happened up at the Deep Creek trail." Later, I would be riding with a woman who knew the exact trail, and as we were making our way up, let me know this was it.

At the top of the trail was a tree. A tree with beautiful bark.

I stood for a long time with my hands on its bark, allowing myself to feel it--even to be it-- for a moment. To witness what it witnessed. 

As I stood, hands on bark, little snow flakes started coming down, as if it was crying on me--or bathing me--or renewing me. I thought it was coming from the branches, but my husband said it was starting to snow.  And, it was.

Really, there was no sadness in the majestic pine, only my own sadness. 

How could you trace its shape to the sky and see anything but triumph? A great oneness with all of creation--the snow, the crows, the many horses which had passed there, coyotes, mule deer, moose,...the tragic death of a woman doing what she loved, the suffering, the joy...over and over--all one, all inescapable. 

I have choices to make today, too. Trees to touch. Snowflakes to feel on my face. Horses to kiss. I will take the good with the bad, but run hard towards the good.


  1. Our thoughts are powerful aren't they? The power to make us feel so many different ways. Ordering those thoughts and focusing them (meditation, prayer) is a great way to start the day. I have 2 or 3 times a day that I set aside for prayer.
    I know someone who had a near death experience. She says the joy and beauty of heaven is unimaginable.

    1. Amazing. I was in the room with my grandmother as she passed, and she began conversing with her loved ones who had already crossed. There was a peace that came over her just before her breathing became deep and hoarse. We all knew her spirit had passed and the body was empty and dying.

      Yes, our thoughts are powerful and perhaps that is why we have to force ourselves outside into the natural word—to shake ourselves out of dangerous cycles. The physical effects of our bodies natural ups and downs also pull us one way or another, but there’s almost nothing a hike or trail ride can’t fix.

  2. Interesting you didn't feel eyes on you while maskless. My mind is over-active and spend a lot of time & energy trying to re-direct my thoughts towards the positive. I absolutely get this post. It is a healthy approach to foster meditation/prayer and turn to nature. Harmless and helps sort thoughts. As far as your hubby, I think not talking about whatever bothers them is a guy thing. That is some amazing bark!! I tried to ID the pine, but came up with "Northern Hardwood Forest". Really, I knew that lol. I sure do hope you & Shirley are right ^^

    Such an inward-looking post, love it!!

    1. I believe that's Ponderosa Pine. We have a lot of Douglas Fir and a ton of Ponderosa around here.

      Yes, the masklessness response was very weird. I had extras in my purse, and could have easily put one on if I knew. Oddly, I had also left my phone in the car--something I never do--which tells me I must have been in deep thought about something to forget so much.

      Oh, I forgot to add that when I arrived home, plant in hand, and jumped out of my truck, I slipped on black ice and almost killed myself. It seems that if I don't do that at least once per winter, it isn't really a winter.

      Today is another dark, gloomy, cold day--no treadmill, because it broke--so I will have to work extra hard to find my way through it. All the big guns. Exercise. Meditation. Prayer. Yoga. Music. Maybe even painting. But we're just about out of this arctic snap! Yay!

      I may also "phone a friend." haha. Whatever it takes!

    2. Oh nooo!! Black Ice is impossible to see, an instant wipe out. Hope you are okay?! Do you have any stairs? They are great for a variety of exercises, including cardio. Story time: when I graduated from college my mom gifted myself & oldest daughter (4yrs old) a trip to Madrid to see family. My grandmother didn't want me out in the big city alone, so I ran up and down four flights of stairs daily and did the rest of my workout in her tiny formal room (otherwise only used with guests). Her neighbors thought I was completely insane. I still use our basement stairs for indoor workouts, mostly for stretching these days. Another indoor cardio idea, if your body can handle impact try jump roping. Super inexpensive (or use whatever you have, a lead rope etc) fun and humbling all at the same time. Wish I could still jump rope, I loved it. Anywho, that tree does look like a Ponderosa Pine. We have White and Red Pines, smaller versions. Warmer days are coming!!


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.