Celtic Art by Welsh Artist Jen Delyth

Yesterday, March 3, it snowed again; about five inches.  We've had so many snows this winter from early December to March that I've lost count.  This snow was light and dry and it almost instantaneously crusted over.  The juncos trip lightly over its surface, heads bobbing into tiny holes and tracks left by the squirrels.  The ground is once more stunningly white, the ever-higher March sun polishing the light to a cut-glass brilliance, even through the lingering pale gray clouds.  I'm at the bottom of my capacity to draw meaning from the wintry landscape.  I've thought every thought about the resting trees, the stark beauty of stripped branches, the cycle of death and life, the hidden seeds.

One gift of an over-long winter is its ability to direct attention indoors.  This morning, while making the bed,  I noticed as I hadn't before the bedspread which I had given to Billy this Christmas.   It is a woven depiction of the Celtic Tree of Life designed by Welsh artist Jen Delyth.  She explained the symbolism in a card that came with it:

"The Ancients envisioned the entire cosmos in the form of tree whose roots grow deep in the ground, branches reaching high into the heavens.  Also known as the World Tree, the primal Mother Tree was regarded as all-nourishing, all-giving, involved in the creation of the universe and the origin of the first man and woman.  Creatures representing the elements--the sacred Salmon, Heron, Horse, Dog and Human folk are entwined within the greening vines of life.  In the border motif (from the Book of Kells--a medieval manuscript) the pot represents this Source, or Earth Womb, also symbolized as the Grail, or Cauldron of Regeneration in Celtic mythology.  The interlacing branches symbolize the Celtic belief in the Continuity of Life." 

All that, and I hadn't even had breakfast.

David Whyte has a well-known poem, "Everything Is Waiting for You", in which he enumerates the creatures of the indoor landscape and their ability to call us back to ourselves:

"The stairs are your mentor of things to come, the doors have always been there to frighten you and invite you, the tiny speaker in the phone is your dream-ladder to divinity.  Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the conversation.  The kettle is singing even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots have left their arrogant aloofness and seen the good in you at last...."

I find the most compelling wildlife of lands indoors to be the living ones we arise and lie down beside, eat across from, argue with, wonder about, find the keys for, and cherish through all the snowed-in days and dark, long nights.  Recently, Jackie and Bob had this in spades when two grandchildren, 15 month old Odessa and 5 year old Balazs, stayed with them over the weekend because their mom had broken her ankle and was recovering from the subsequent plate and screw surgery.  Jackie eloquently described the powers needed and the contours traversed during the weekend: "presence, love, patience, play, creativity, alertness of dangers in the environment, stamina to lift, to hold, to cook, to clean, to do laundry, to drive and drive some more, to tell stories, to go on adventures, to comfort a screaming Odessa when her mommy's breast milk has been withdrawn due to painkiller residue, to reassure Balazs that it will be ok after he's just thrown up dinner all over his pjs..."

Several years ago, back when my son Danny was still in college and home for summers, he would occasionally leave the car radio tuned to a  country music station.  Once when I turned it on I caught a few lines of the current hit.  The singer was a cowboy, or perhaps a rancher (or both), singing that he liked to look out from his front porch across the prairie to the mountains beyond, but the view he loved most  was the one  from his front porch looking in, at his wife and baby in the living room.  Sappy, I know; but there's something in it.  Wintertime, with its limits on how far we can wander, has a way of keeping us on the porch, looking in.

We are reminded of who we love, and why; and how we love; and we discover, astonished, that just like the trees and streams, the logs and juncos, and all the others, the bedspreads, cooking pots, washing machines, bibs and bottles also speak, talking to us of life, of hidden wells and cauldrons of regeneration.

This can prompt us to spontaneous acts of expression and refreshing conscientiousness. Two days ago, Billy received a text message from Danny: "Hey pops happy birthday, you're a wonderful dad and I love you."  Then a minute later, "And of course this is 2 days early but I thought I'd get a head start haha."