I am nearing the final section of Sue Hubbell’s book A Country Year: Living the Questions. A friend passed it on to me a short time ago, saying she didn’t need to have it by her any more and that she thought I might like it. It is the story of one year in the life of a woman who lives alone in the Ozarks and makes a modest living keeping bees and selling honey. Starting off with a quote by Rilke, the frequently cited “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves” one, the book pulled me in quickly. I have been reading it in small, nearly daily doses for the past two weeks. Hubbell writes clearly and sparely, honestly and compassionately about encounters with her neighbors, her bees, and the other animals and plants that surround her – coyotes, opossums, and monarch butterflies being a few of my favorites.
Yet the phrase that has struck me the most is her description of winter: “…it is a time for privacy and indwelling.” Yes. The word indwelling piqued my interest. It is a word I couldn’t define, yet I fancied I knew what it meant. I imagined it to mean being in oneself, being in one’s home, taking full possession of the space available to you, whether your body or your home. What indwelling actually means is slightly different. My Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines the verb indwell as meaning “to exist as an inner activating spirit, force, or principle, to exist within as an activating spirit, force, or principle.” This is followed by the noun indweller. I guess I could consider myself an indweller in my own home – I activate it, make the space come alive simply by my presence, right?
Another definition I invented of indwelling was not reaching out into the world but making do with what has been gathered and brought into the home. Using up what’s stored in the larder, working through the stack of books, knitting up what’s been lurking in the corners of your stash. All actions proper to winter. I feel my spirits are starting to limp not so much from the cold and dark but from the repetition of routine and the remarkable similarity the days are starting to have. One potentially uplifting similarity, however, is the sunrise and its time-lapse scattering of salmon pinks and smoky blues in myriad combinations. What’s more, this morning I spotted four of the five planets – I think it was just Mercury I missed.
Don’t forget to enjoy the sunrise and keep an eye out for visible planets!