Mother Nature and the Privilege of Humility
With the northeastern United States pummeled by record winter storms, I have experienced an unprecedented amount of snow days off from work. I am not alone, as many of my friends and neighbors have also been forced to work from home or forgo work altogether. I have felt a restlessness pervade Haute Hooverville (aka the Boston Metro area), and yes I too have felt stifled with cabin fever and disoriented by the total reversal of status quo. Snow has crippled our transit system and our spirits and yet I have been cheering on the storm and will continue to do so. Because let's face it folks, we are on nature's turf, and it's times like this where we have to accept that our seemingly impenetrable civilizations stand at the mercy of forces greater than us. Storms like the now-infamous Snowmageddon of 2015 are indeed humbling --but only if you allow yourself the privilege of humility and all of its rewards.
Lesson #1: Bitch Not and Embrace Stillness
If you are one of those people who comprise the "work from home class" quit your bitching. This includes people like myself who, while technically are not working from home, have jobs that give them time off during weather emergencies and were able to peace out with a simple auto-response email setting. I've heard a lot of people grumble about having to stay home but honestly folks, it's the guy busting his butt in the cold to get the rail tracks clean or the person trudging to work on foot because they'll lose their job or not have rent money otherwise that gets a grumble pass, not the desk jockey checking email while watching Downton Abbey or the type-A dude calling into the meeting from Starbucks. The inevitable slowdown of winter used to be something man accepted. Like the bear in its cave we turned inward and embraced the stillness of the darkest days. But now the rhythm of the modern workday drowns out the heartbeat of the seasons; thus, we have forgotten how to take our seasonal rest when it is forced upon us. I've had mixed feelings about this spate of lazy days, but I've also treasured this opportunity to turn inward and seek the place of rest winter offers us.
I have been reminded of Frau Holle (or Mother Hulda), a figure of German folklore who makes it snow in the world whenever she fluffs her bedding and the feathers fly out. In the Brothers Grimm story Frau Holle, one girl is rewarded by serving Frau Holle faithfully and another girl is punished for disregarding Frau Holle's instructions. Like the good servant girl, we must know when to bend to the will of nature and work together with the one who brings the seasons.
|The good servant helps make Frau Holle's bed, bringing snow to the world.|
I couldn't find an artist credit for this --if anyone knows its origin let me know!
|In Germany Frau Holle was even featured in a series of Brothers Grimm postage stamps!|
Lesson #2 Get Busy and Embrace Creation
Something wonderful I have observed amongst my housebound friends is a recommitment to creativity. Through the window of social media I have observed people baking goodies and making crafts. I am again reminded of the industry praised by the Frau Holle figure and the creative traditions that were a hallmark of the winter months for generations past. So many people my age and younger have rediscovered traditional home and hearth crafts in recent years but all kinds of creative outlets are wonderful. Part of embracing the stillness, is filling it with movement --the quickening of idle hands and minds. Hah! Even more babies are made in winter I believe!
|This fall and early winter I did a lot of crosstitching. I based several of my designs on Scandinavian folkart. |
Scandinavian folkart often features bright colors, a source of cheer during the dark Norse winter.
|During this last storm I made homemade cards.|
Lesson #3 Look Around You and Embrace Connection
Winters like these are also reminders to turn outward as well as inward. Cards and letters made during this extra time off will go to friends who I have long been meaning to snail mail, and these dark snowy days have been brightened by extended chats via phone and text with friends who likewise now have spare time on their hands. Some of my neighbors have even braved the storm to help the less fortunate at shelters and churches, and across Twitter, Facebook et al, shout outs about traffic delays, subway closings and weather reports ring out for others to benefit. And as the Fates would have it, the storms have separated me from my boyfriend and his wonderful polydactyl cat for much of the time these past few weeks. We have been a little bored and sometimes sad but it certainly has helped us appreciate one another, and that is a feeling I will try to hold on to when the snows are long gone.