Forum Holitorium

Month: November, 2017

On the Cusp of Winter

The promise of snow did not pan out as I had hoped. I had imagined waking up to glowing white outside, looking down from my cozy room in my refuge with a view of the forest and delighting in the arrival of winter. But I have enjoyed just a few mornings with a liberal sprinkling of powdered sugar that melts as soon as the sun warms the earth. When I find such a layer on top of apple strudel, I try to tap it off with my fork. Why ruin one of the few desserts that is not overly sweet with extra sugar?

Winter may come soon enough but most likely after I return to the city later this week. It has been a year of cultivating patience in many areas of life; I guess this will apply to enjoyment of snow as well. How fickle I have become, yearning for the next season when the reds and oranges of fall are still on view. Perhaps my focus has shifted a bit. On my walks in the woods, I have been distracted by my four-legged companion Kati. Wire-haired dachshunds approach the world differently than we do. Whereas I am content to breath in the smell of spruce and let my mind wander as I stroll, Kati stops every few meters, nose quivering, ears giving away how much more alert she is than I to the subtle smells of the forest. Or she takes off at a good clip, excited to be out and stretching her legs, stopping impatiently when she reaches the end of the leash to wait for me to catch up with her. Walks are not supposed to be this strenuous. I spend more time contemplating her than the trees now, noting how her hind legs are rarely in perfect alignment with her front legs as she trots along in front of me and anticipating when she will try to leave the path to sniff and explore dead grass. Leisurely contemplation while walking will need to wait until Kati is reunited with her owner.

I have come to the conclusion that dog ownership is best left for people who live in the countryside, people who wish to lose weight, people who do not shirk from taking responsibility for the welfare of another being, and people who can handle the smell of meat. I am just a temporary dabbler, an adjunct dog sitter, and do not inhabit the space in the Venn diagram where these categories overlap. Far from it. Yet my week with Kati has shown me how quickly a good natured dog can win even me over.

May you see the world differently through the eyes of an animal!

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Middle High Autumn

I find myself happier with less. I find I no longer need to seek things out; instead, the important things and ideas find me. I find myself listening. Looking. Observing. More. Not enough though, because I nearly stepped on a fire salamander, so engrossed I was in a conversation, my thoughts darting to possible futures instead of taking in the wonders in front of me.

Fall brings with it a quiet of its own. I am at a point where I am interested in seeking out new rhythms and focusing more on the silence between the beats. When I need to clear my head and breathe deeply, I head to the forest. Somehow the colors of the leaves – those on fire as well as those stalwartly green – seem more vibrant to me this year.

In September I read two books that found me, two books not on my reading list. The first was The Abundance of Less by Andy Couturier. Couturier interviewed ten people living in rural Japan who are treading softly on the earth by making do without money as much as possible. One of the people he interviewed said that we human beings want things because we have too much information, yet the changing weather and seasons are enough. Another says you need a life where you can be aware of nature and perceive it closely.

I stop to admire water drops on leaves and walk away carefully, leaving them for others to appreciate.

The second book was Being the Change by Peter Kalmus. One of the important messages is that although we cannot save the world, we can still change it, and every action counts. Kalmus is a climate scientist who has slashed his CO2 emissions by ninety percent. He writes eloquently about the change in perspective that is necessary to temper global warming and speaks from his own experiences with meditation about how practicing can lead to greater equanimity. What if more people cultivated equanimity?

What both books have in common is the ethic of choosing not to take everything we can take. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it should be done. Opting out is often a very good option. I don’t need to climb a mountain to appreciate its beauty and be changed by its presence.

Snow has already fallen in the Alps. In the valley where I am typing these lines, freezing temperatures were predicted. Instead of a dusting of frost on the grass, my observations early this morning revealed two magpies in a linden tree nearly devoid of leaves. It is darker longer, and the silence of evenings is intoxicating. Apples are at their peak of crispness; wool begs to be knit into sweaters.

May you choose not to take everything you can!