Winter Turns the Tide

This winter has been most challenging on every level.

 I am exhausted, emotionally and physically. Most of my hair has turned gray. In my mind and body I have become an old woman.

 On December 31st I broke my foot at three in the morning when a horrible crash awakened me to a blocked front door. I shoveled pure ice for an hour. Frantic with anxiety, I didn’t even realize that I had broken my foot until the crisis was over and the door could be opened again.

Initially, I believed I had one woman and two men who would help me with snow removal this winter but all three backed out for one reason or another. My trust was misplaced. (Human betrayal/racism have dogged me ever since I moved here almost 40 years ago. It has only been recently that I recognized that this problem is part of a larger story that is more about others than me.)

When help isn’t available – well – there’s nothing to do but to go on alone and that’s what I did. I have two little Chihuahuas who can’t go outdoors until they have paths to get through the snow. This means that regardless of the severity of the storm I need to snowshoe…The night I broke my foot I had already been out four times keeping the way open.

 We were being buried by a winter storm.

When I broke a second bone a month later while shoveling ice again I was beyond distraught. A kindly woman who I barely knew became a fierce advocate for me – the first genuine advocate I have ever had in all the years I have lived here. She called upon others to help me find two young men who promised to do the shoveling that I can no longer do. Snowshoeing those paths is all that’s left, and I think I can do that much. I hope.

my friend the grouse shows up to remind me I have made the right decision – she’s been absent for a month.

This winter of ice – freeze thaw – always with ice at the beginning and/or end of every rain/snow storm has made walking so dangerous that even with spikes it is not safe. Never in forty years have we had this much rain all winter long – rain that turns to ice – then snow – then more freezing rain.

Never have I been so housebound.

 The changing weather made it profoundly real on a practical level that I must sell the house because I can no longer take care of myself here.

Soul, spirit, and body have finally been re-united as I make this decision seek ‘home’ elsewhere.

I am shocked to realize how ready I am to leave…

I came to these mountains because I am in love with trees and hoped to experience woodland peace by soaking in the green of intact forests, flowing brook waters, engage with wild animals as a naturalist and develop into the courageous woman I have become – one whose integrity stands before her. I was fortunate. For a while I was nurtured by trees and water, experienced peace, and engaged with wild animals on land I loved…

 Gradually my feelings began to shift with the changes that were underway … As the Spirit of the Forest began to recede I felt the loss keenly. The logging machine was destroying our woods. My little patch of trees and brook became sandwiched in between land that has been brutally logged or senselessly maimed by my nearest neighbor. The animals and birds lost their habitat; most have disappeared. Road noise, gunning, motorcycles, traffic, speed of any kind has become the norm. It is no longer possible to walk on my road. Most recently the mountain behind me swarms with ‘recreationists’ who use the trails they cut through the land as their playground. Curiously, a year ago I thought I might stay, not because these changes weren’t happening but because I thought I had a reason to… but this belief turned out to be illusion, thankfully.

 As the final veil fell away, I was almost free.

Strangely, it was the dead that still held me. My beloved brother was buried below the house and I couldn’t imagine leaving him behind…But last fall I had a series of dreams that informed me that my little brother was no longer here; that he now lived in the very forest that has become my refuge, a place some distance from here that I still love fiercely. Silence, biodiversity – large intact trees, a healthy understory, mosses and lichen, a plethora of ground covers, a winding river, bears and other animals, birds and beavers all befriend me here, offering solace, peace, companionship and love. In one of the dreams my brother has become this whole green forest and he wears an animal skin. That my little brother is free, that he is finally at peace has set me free too. Oh, the joy and the relief. I can let go! No matter where I find home I can always return to my refuge because this forest is protected for perpetuity.

I have a multitude of unknown challenges ahead of me, but because I am flowing with the river to the sea, I believe I will be able to make this transition. As difficult as winter has been I can also feel gratitude because I have finally been able to make this decision.

 Letting go allows me to embrace the old woman in myself, the one with limitations. I make the choice to love her, to advocate for her, just as my fierce and caring friend did for me.

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