To be in nature, roaming around, playing or simply sitting on a rock has been a source of refuge for me long before I knew of the term, to take refuge. Being in nature I feel that my body and mind settle and calibrate without me having to do anything. Not to jump around in thinking or letting my mind wander about seem to be my part to play, life and nature does the rest. Now there are also scientific studies showing more and more about how we are happier and healthier when we have enough nature in our lives.
After living in Plum Village in rural France for a couple of years my senses and consciousness had adjusted to the more calm and grounding sense Impressions nature offer, compared to the lights, billboards, sounds and rushing of the city- The colors of the setting sun, the song of birds, flowers and fruit are the fireworks of nature that is being offered daily and seasonally respectively. In the city the intense sense impressions are there all the time, so I needed to get used to being in a more calm environment. It was so clear that the blues, greens and browns of nature help to hold and harmonize the brighter expressions. There is life all around which makes for much nourishment when we are able to be in touch. In the city and in the digital world there is not as strong of an inate current of life, so we brighten and highten to feel that we receving something of value, something interesting. When I am in nature I try to use all my senses, as I touch and pet plants, rub leaves and smell, hug and smell the bark of trees, stop to listen in to the rustling of the leaves and bird chirping.
For the past 11 months I have spent a lot of time in the city again. Because of the training and experience of living close to the earth for 18 years I seek out parks, waterfronts and trees in the city environment. It has been a joy to follow the season of the Chestnut trees, whose leaves started to come out when I first arrived, followed by amazing clusters of white flowers, and most recently smooth and firm chestnuts free of its shell laying on the ground offering me a foot massage. There are a couple of chestnust trees marking one section of the round Greta Garbo park close to where I live. When they were in full vigor this summer it felt as to walk under it´s canopy, openned a hidden pathway into the arms of Mother Earth. When I pass I often stop and ask the chestnut elder if I can come closer. I have never been refused even if one time after being away for a while we needed some time to reacquaint. To stand with my back against it´s trunk or to hug the tree with my arms reaching half of it´s wide waist, I take refuge. I feel into the roots growing deep into the earth, I sense the life force of the tree moving through the trunk and the greeting of the sunlight in the spread branches filled with leaves. I become part of the tree and the tree becomes part of me. It shows me the way back to myself, back to nature and back to life, beyond ideas and concepts, into a deep and liberating knowing. I am not alone, I am not cut of from live, I am a precious expression of life! And so are you!
Last week we have had our first real period of snow where I am staying. I got to showel snow, to make snow balls and build into a lantern, walk through the snow with the indescribable sound which we call “knirrande”, eating fresh fallen snow from a branch and to lay down in an untouched meadow and make a snow angel. Life can be wonderful in the present moment.
For many years I lived in southern California at Deer Park Monastery and I also got to go into desert habitats areas in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. The experience of thundering silence that I treasure about winter in the north, I could also touch in the heat and dry of the southwest. There is not much plant or animal activity in the drought period, even at Deer Park with it´s chaparral, coastal sage and oak habitats, life slow down considerably for several months. In Sweden we have many songs about the joy and excitement in spring, when animals and plants seem to come back from the dead, full with new life. We do know however that the tree or bush is not dead, but it knows when to return deep inside to conserve energy and rest and when to grow out and expand.
The last couple of months during the darkest months I have tried to take refuge in this process of live, hibernating, looking deeply. I have been out walking slowly through town in the dark, with light poles showing the way, but it is more calm and ease around then in the daytime. I have been reading more and having wonderful conversations with people close to me. At this time I am not that active and set my own schedule which has been helping to follow the rhythm of nature here. The first year I lived at Deer Park my Swedish ancestors in my felt as if it was summer time all year long. They could relax and be more at ease somehow. But year by year I got more in touch with the seasons in a new environment. A specialist on the chaparall habitat I met some years ago said that spring starts right after the first rains in (normally) November and last until June, then there is a month of summer before the drougt season kicks in and last until the rains return. When the first rains arrive nature becomes more alive and vidid, with all the dust being washed off. There is also like a sigh of relief from the plant world, we made it, how refreshing, tremendous joy is sensed in the valley and hills. Before long the vitality of the bush return and new leaves starts coming out. And starting around Christmas the different blossoms in the chaparral take turn to show their splendor, with the hanging bell shapes white and pink flower of the different Manzanitas first out of the gates.
Today it snows again and winter will be around for a couple of months more, but it is clear that the day becomes longer, day by day. This is a time in the north of the northern hemisphere in particular to touch the light in the dark, to experience the warmth in the cold, to be aware of life where death seem to reign. Nature is inviting us to stop, to calm, to rest in order to be nourished and from this place clear and deep seeing can happen effortlessly.
May all beings be happy and free. In life and love, bye for now Jem