The snow fell soft again this morning, embracing this frozen crust in a thin layer of down. I study gray havens on my way to work—see misty mountains floating in swirling shards of light. This is beauty and I drive by it every day and look right through it. But today I look at it–breathe in with more of me, and feel the free of driving through a thousand scattered snowflakes dancing down.
This winter I have found the secret to a great mystery. A fool-proof anti-aging formula:
Go outside when the snow is falling down + Turn face upward = Instant beauty treatment.
It works better if the arms are held open wide. And maybe a twirl around or two.
Since the day I committed to play outside every day, I have grown younger. Each day that first week, the boys and I went down to the creek on pilgrimage. We walked on water and poked at her hard surface with strong sticks. They used the sticks to pry up the edges of the creek–jagged chunks of diamond flipped onto the muddy bank. We peered through panes of ice at the benthic bed. We looked for signs of sleeping minnows or mud-burrowing frogs.
All was still except the silent play of light across the gossamer lid. Our cheeks grew rosy with the touch of the cool air and shivers came not from the temperature but from that deep place inside that tells me I’m alive.
And then, after the summer frolic: the winter quiescent. The roots deep within me hear the call of the winter sleep. Dream, the wind seems to say. Rest and wait for spring, was the whisper of the blackbird. We curl up under blankets and binge on stories. And because of the beauty treatment, we are tired…but it’s a good kind of tired so we sit in front of the fire and let the warm glow thaw these frozen roots.
All the while, we are quiescent—waiting.
Contrary to traditional belief, forest ecologists now know that tree roots do not stop growing in the winter. We’ve always been told that this is the dormant stage–that during this season of cold and frost, the tree conserves valuable energy by falling into a deep sleep. The tree shepherds tell us different. As long as the soil remains favorable–that is, between 32 and 41° F, the trees roots will continue to grow and do their job. Even when the air is fraught and frigid, the soil frequently maintains these mitigating temperatures. An early snow is even better—a heaping scoop of snow on top will protect the soil underneath from the harsh cold and insulate the root. During these times of winter growth, fine filaments of non-woody tree hairs creep out from the mother root—seeking nourishment and quenching the thirst of the winter quiescent.
In front of the fire with my boys I feel the slow-hum of this invisible root growth. We let those tendrils creep slow, quietly absorbing all that brings new life–intertwining, tangling up in one another until we are joined in the deepest places. Beneath the soil of life, in the dirt and mud of winter we are woven into one. We rest, but we are not dormant—senses dulled in sluggish sleep. No, just the opposite. This rest brings life…it hones sagacity and opens hearts to deeper wisdom. We grow.
And thus, one final step in the beauty treatment:
Go outside when snow is falling down + Turn face upward + winter quiescence = instant beauty.
Try it for yourself. You’ll lose ten years. Maybe more.