In the precious hour before dawn I walk down to a river that no longer empties into the sea – the circle of life has been broken – the earth’s veins and arteries are hopelessly clogged by human interference (stupidity) – the birds and animals that used to be able to rely on the river waters for food and resting places can no longer do so because dams control the water flow and westerners “own” the water. This morning black stone sculptures appeared overnight because the water level has been dropped another foot. And yet, acknowledging the flowing waters in their death throws seems like an important thing to do. For now, at least, the river turns crimson, reflecting the raging beauty of a pre dawn sky, and I am soothed by water rippling quietly over round stone.
I open the rusty gate to enter the Bosque, a place of refuge, for the cottonwoods and for me. Now I am surrounded by frost covered scrub and graceful matriarchs arc over my head. As I traverse the well – trodden path I enter a meditative state without effort. Soon I am walking in circle after circle passing through the same trees and desert scrub hearing voices.
During the winter months the trees barely whisper. Yet, as I focus on my steps, I have also opened my body to receiving without realizing it. And soon I sense quiet winter conversation occurring under my feet. Sugar, water and minerals are still being exchanged by Beings 400 million years old. Stronger healthier trees assist the young, dying trees offer the gift of their bodies to new life.
The understory that I call desert “scrub” is composed of Mexican privet, Chinese elms, Russian Olive trees, squawberry, wild roses, red willows, junipers, cattails, chamisa clumps, spikey rosettes, some wild grasses and a few perilous Cholla and Rabbit ear cacti. All these plants communicate through complex root systems and are actively engaged in relationship – and all these miracles are happening under my feet.
As I walk these circles I feel this underground presence keenly, and am comforted and enlivened by ancient plant, fungal, and animal existence. Although this Bosque has been pruned back and opened to the harsh white light of the summer sun, sacrificing precious moisture that the desert is deeply in need of due to increasingly severe drought, it still supports trees and scrub. And unlike so many other places there are young cottonwood trees growing here that will see another generation.
For now I am content to simply be part of what is.
The cold finally penetrates my senses breaking my meditative state. My feet are numb, my nose is running, my hands are frozen! I hurry to the creaking gate, closing it behind me, make a brief foray out onto the beach and climb the hill. The riot of pre-dawn crimson, pink, and gold has faded into a clouded sunrise, totally unremarkable. Only the river’s serpentine curves capture my attention because more riverbed has been exposed. I hope the fish are managing. It’s still too early to see the white –capped rocky mountains in the distance but no birds are present or stirring. This kind of cold keeps birds grounded with heads tucked underwing…
As I climb the last rise I laugh because in less than an hour I have become one with the desert scrub and Frau Holle, an old mythological Scandinavian goddess, one who controls the weather, especially during the winter. Like the silvery scrub I have been transformed by frost and like Frau Holle, I too have frozen white hair!
In some Scandinavian traditions, Frau Holle is known as the female spirit of the woods and plants. She is an old woman, sometimes called Old Mother Frost. Frau Holle controls the weather, and is also a seer – one who can read the future…
She was honored as the sacred embodiment of the earth in al her diversity. Interestingly Frau Holle’s birthday is December 25th.