Deep January days in the woods

Outside my window right now

Outside my window right now

Good morning from our little stretch of woods and lake and snow and cold.  Sitting here at this computer I watch lazy flakes of snow silhouetted against black and gray tree limbs.  Yonder brown oak leaves dangle from branches that tenderly hold last years promise.  The snow dusts the branches of an evergreen.  Blue jays call.  The woodstove hums in the basement.  It’s deep January in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The weather forecasters send chilly spikes into our snowy landscape as they predict plummeting temperatures for the next ten days.  From today’s high of 21F (-6C) we’ll plunge to -14F (-25C) by Sunday night. I plan to wear my long underwear, heavy winter coat and big warm boots until February, at least, every time I venture to town and beyond.

Our new wide deck-shoveling shovel

January offers the opportunity to stay inside and travel deep within the inner psyche to discover what we yet need to hatch and discover and make peace with in these human bodies.  That’s what I’ve been doing.  Have been taking a nine-month spiritual online class delving deep into holy work.  We’re in the fourth month now.

One of the things I’ve been learning more steadfastly in recent years is how our repressed and unconscious pain can keep us enmeshed in patterns of suffering.  So part of the work of this spirituality is feeling into whatever emotions arise, dropping out of our fascination with thought, and feeling deeply in the body.

So I have been feeling a lot.  Sometimes quite painful emotional sensations will arise.  Sometimes these are unconscious feelings from babyhood or childhood.  Sometimes they are feelings triggered by something someone says. I am slowly learning to love the innocence behind the masks we wear.  I am slowly relaxing a bit more into this world which can keep reflecting our inner repressed pain back to us.

But enough of this spiritual talk.  You perhaps would like to know what else is happening here.

Painfully moving forward

Each morning–except some mornings–I linger in pajamas until at least 10 a.m., unless other plans take precedence.  It’s becoming more of a joy to do slow yoga stretches.  Hands together to the sky.  Fingers down to the toes.  Right foot back, face to the floor.  Each movement matches with an in-breath or out-breath.  Up, down, arch, elongate, clasp.  First in the East–the direction of new beginnings and sunrises–and all the way around to the North where whatever we’ve learned perhaps settles into wisdom.

My daughter asked if I’d like to participate with her in a commitment to walk outside every January day for a minimum of ten minutes.  I said yes.  So each day the steps go up the road, down the road, around the house, or across the snow.  Sometimes I linger in deer or squirrel footsteps.  Sometimes I walk a half hour.  It’s interesting because–without this incentive–I would stay inside when it’s “too cold”.  Now that’s not a possibility.  Open the door and walk outside, you.  Your mind will try to convince you it will be damn uncomfortable.  Usually it turns out to be kinda invigorating.

A California friend kindly taught me an art form called Zentangle one fine evening over Skype.  She loves this patterned drawing so much that she shares it with others.  I followed her techniques and enjoyed our lesson, and she nudged me toward websites that offered different Zentangle patterns.  I spent a frustrated half hour (good opportunity to feel painful emotions!) attempting to figure it all out before giving up, clearing my mind, and letting the hand draw whatever patterns it desired, forget any official rules.  What I love MOST about Zentangle is that Jodi taught me that nothing is considered a mistake.  What a great lesson to be applied to life!  What we call a mistake can also be viewed as the next lesson to be learned…the heart relaxes with that, doesn’t it?

zentangle 1

Another thing I’ve been doing this January is based on authentic movement or free dancing.  I turn on Pandora in the evening–lately it’s been Norah Jones radio–and allow the body to move how it wants to move.  Not how it’s been conditioned to dance. But how it desires to move for healing, integration and love.

What else?  A great joy is getting together for tea or lunch with dear friends.  I have a handful of dearly loved friends (who seem to like connecting on a deeper level about spirituality and life lessons and such).  I’m deeply grateful for their presence here.  As well as online friends who keep singing their special song of connection into this life.  Hands to heart, in gratitude…

Finally, on a practical everyday level, we fill the wood room.  We burn the dried firewood.  We plow and shovel.  We watch the days get just a tiny bit lighter.  We shiver.  We laugh.  We cry.  We dance.  (Not Barry.  I’m just talking metaphorically in this paragraph, just to wrap things back to the eternal “we” that laughs, cries, dances.)

What are you doing these deep January days?

Want to come back next winter?  :)


About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in January, 2019 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Deep January days in the woods

  1. rehill56 says:

    Love your joy in all that we are blessed with! Blessed by you!

  2. bree1972 says:

    Hey sweet lady. Just popping up to say I so envy your life in the north woods. I’m planning to spend a month on Mackinac in the dead of winter next year – good Lord willing. It’s always been on my bucket list, and, after a couple of health scares this summer, I’m committed to start crossing some of those wishes off that list. Love, love, love your writing – always have. Hugs, Brenda (Bree)

    • Kathy says:

      Bree, how lovely to hear from you today! But I’m very sorry to hear about your health scares. They can be such wake-up calls. Hopefully you will get to check off many things on your bucket list in the next many years. (And thank you for your kind compliment as well!)

  3. Brenda says:

    Kathy, you are a beautiful blessing in my life and I treasure your friendship! ❤ This month, I am working on staying in the moment, being present to everything that is going on within me and around me, and just being able to stay somewhat calm despite all the troubles occurring now. Your words and pictures still inspire me and encourage me. Thank you! ❤

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, what a beautiful thing to say. I love how we can be blessings in each other’s lives. Your deep desire for presence, being in the moment and calmness in the midst of storms is admirable. I love how encouragement can keep spiraling outward. Thank YOU!

  4. Carol says:

    Breathe deeply and let the universe in – keeping feet grounded, mind elevated.
    My daughter does Zentangle – it’s fascinating and she’s done some beautiful things, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t call my name.
    Trying to discipline self to do my chair yoga every day, with not as much success as I want. Just have to keep at it.
    Today our neighborhood “girls” are going to breakfast, something we keep saying we need to do more often, but life gets in the way.

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, love that reminder about keeping feet grounded, the mind uplifted and breathing deeply. Such wisdom. How interesting that your daughter does Zentangle. I had never heard of it until this month. Hope you had a most lovely breakfast with your friends. Hope you laughed a lot and shared dozens of stories. Thanks for stopping by and sharing what’s happening with you. I need to go blog-visiting; I have not done so in a while and need to catch up.

  5. john k. says:

    My dream someday is to spend an entire winter in L’Anse, but I don’t think my better half will ever let that happen. I haven’t been UP since last Wednesday. I can imagine the glee Barry is experiencing knowing the bay will freeze over soon.

    • Kathy says:

      Well at least you get to visit often, John. That is wonderful! Barry and Nancy actually went burbot fishing two nights ago on Huron Bay and returned with three fish. Nancy and her crew have invited Barry to fish on the Keweenaw Bay (the ice at the head of the bay is thick enough) but he hasn’t gone yet. I am thinking we’ll be dining on lake trout soon. If it doesn’t get too cold to fish, lol.

  6. Barb says:

    We are in a frigid spell too, and I must force myself outside for exercise. As Bob always says, “You can’t ski in summer…” (I roll my eyes when he says this.) You sound busy with lots of physical, mental, and emotional projects. I am trying to finish up a month of Small Stones which means daily posting on the blog. Why did I think this was a good idea to start 2019? It is teaching me something about myself which maybe I don’t want to learn. I love that Finnish temperature gauge!

    • Kathy says:

      Barb, I wrote in response to your last comment how much I am enjoying your Small Stones. I read them every afternoon as they fly into the inbox. Can totally understand the challenges of keeping a daily commitment. It seems that these commitments can offer us gifts, but sometimes they can be out of sync with what other parts of our heart want to do. Glad you like the thermometer–we thought it was funny!

  7. Ally Bean says:

    This has been a peculiar January for me. I keep on keeping on with my blog, but in my everyday life I’m more up and down. I’ve been more social than I usually am in January, much less interested in self-improvement like I usually am at this time of year. Nothing wrong with any of this, just different for me. And maybe that’s good!

    • Kathy says:

      Ally Bean, it’s so interesting when patterns change and we find ourselves out of our usual “box”. Hope you are enjoying the social front…self-improvement interest may re-ignite some month later down the road. So nice to be hearing from you again. ❤

  8. debyemm says:

    Your temperatures make me feel relatively balmy. Spending about 4 hours a day on my writing and very very happy about that. February will be here before we know it, then March, then April. Time does that, just keeps turning the page.

  9. dawnkinster says:

    I’m glad you’re doing the get outside challenge with your daughter. I know what you mean about making yourself get out and how it’s not really so cold and awful as you think it will be before you get moving. Still, it’s not always easy. I haven’t seen Zantangle before…I’ll go look it up! It looks fun, and perfect to do on a cold winter stay-at-home day.

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, it seems that one of the gifts of a dog like Katie is that a person has to get up, open the door and go outside–no matter what. Maybe it never gets easy, but it can be so invigorating when we do. Let me know if you try Zentangle and if you like it.

  10. This is an inspirational post for me, Kathy, as I have allowed myself all the “too cold.” “too tired,” and “isn’t it just the best kind of day for doing nothing” excuses to throw off all my new year’s intentions. I have succeeded in keeping up with my very short “E.D.D.” list (that is, Every Damn Day) which means the bed is made, the teeth are flossed, I drink three glasses of water and spend ten minutes outside. Beyond that, I’m reading (lazily, under warm covers) a couple books on habit-forming and one on tidying. Ah, well…you put me to shame! February offers a brand new start…thanks for the needed “kick in the pants!”

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy, one of the things I am learning in my spiritual class is how part of us longs for the Yin of doing nothing, for lying in bed, for just vegging out. How this is as important as our doing, our activities, our to-do list. When we don’t honor our Yin desires and just keep “doing” without “being” then something often dies inside. So I am looking at it lately as a balance. To honor Yin’s need to do nothing (and simply be) as well as Yang’s desire to create, to make, to do, to evolve. What do you think of this viewpoint? It relaxes me… and allows me to bathe in not-doing without guilt. xoxoxo

  11. If only everyone could have this experience – being in a cozy house in the dead of winter with subzero temps outside where the only thing to do, really, is to dance/stretch/think/love in the mind (along with a quick two-step outside for 10 minutes to be that much more grateful for the warmth inside). I think the world would be a better place, if more people stopped and settled in with themselves – the physical and the spiritual. But, on the other hand, I’m not sure how many people in the world could handle it. What’s your guess?
    Me? I yoga every day also, and meditate. I go to my dance classes several days a week where we ‘let go’ and move to magical music. I teach writing to brave adults who are willing to reach deep down and discover themselves in their words. I write and wonder every day, The wonder surrounds me with hope. OH, and I do think of you every day as I hear the forecast for your ‘neck of the woods,’ and I know that you are doing just fine. ❤

    • Kathy says:

      Hello my friend from a really cold northern corner of the U.S. today. Another cozy morning in the house with the quilts covering our sliding glass doors. As for your comment about being in a cozy house with very little to do–my guess is that not many in the world could handle it. I couldn’t handle it all for most of my life. Instead would bundle up, head to town, do anything to escape what felt like being in box. The spiritual journey has been one of learning to live in this body, learning to relax, learning how to be in this skin.

      I do love your words about teaching brave adults who are willing to reach deep down and discover themselves in their words. Wow, so beautiful. It does take bravery, doesn’t it, to peek beneath our conditioned selves into truths that play hide-n-seek. Hope you are keeping warm out yonder. It’s brrrrr out there!

  12. Alanna says:

    Smiles to the joys of simple things.

  13. Lori says:

    It’s just as cold here as it is by you, with no signs of it letting up yet. We have a foot of snow on the ground and another 6 to 12 is due between now and Tuesday. Don’t ask me if I’m glad I moved back. People don’t believe me when I still say a resounding, yes! This too shall pass.

    Speaking of getting out at walking, when you have a dog, it kind of forces you to do at least that 10 minutes you speak of. Except, with my shepherd, it’s more than 10 minutes. He LOVES this weather. I can’t get him to come inside. I always dread getting us all ready (bundled up) to go out. Max doesn’t need a coat, but he needs booties so ice pellets don’t get caught between his paw pads. The booties are hard to get on and off. I gotta tell you though, once I’m out there, he makes it fun and invigorating, cause he gets so excited. I don’t walk him in this because I fear slipping on an icy sidewalk. We play in the back yard.

    As far as your spiritual work, I’m wondering if you’ve ever heard of an author named, Paul Ferrini? He does a sort of combination spirituality mixed with psychology where he expresses what we need to clear away mentally to recognize our oneness. I keep one book of his handy, because it’s a compilation of all of this books put together. It’s titled, Reflections of the Christ Mind. It’s not a Christian book. “The Christ,” as I understand him, is who we really are in oneness. If that makes any sense.

    Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to mention something to you. I’ve been writing a book for years (upon years). It’s a fictional story that has to do with spirituality. It’s extremely difficult to write, because the perspective of the author is confusing. Anyway, if I ever get this thing done, I would love for you to beta read this for me. You are the only one I think who might get where I’m going with it. It will likely be at least another year before I can get this thing polished. But, I may contact you when the time comes.

    Stay warm and cozy UP there. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Good morning, Lori. I am thinking you may be getting snow this morning. I know lower Michigan is. It’s darn cold up here in the woods, but no snow is coming down at the moment. It makes me smile with your love for being back home. Your heart certainly called you back up north…

      Glad you have your doggie to get you outside during these cold days. Pets can offer (or insist) upon outdoor priorities. I have seen several pictures of dog booties lately. Not sure if anyone used those in the “old days” when we had dogs. We probably abused our dogs terribly making them go outside to do their business in the snow without proper footwear.

      So interesting about the spiritual book you are writing. Please do ask me in a year or more when you get it polished. Not sure what answer will come out of me though, lol. Last week someone asked me to beta read their book and I checked inside if I was meant to do this. The Universe said “no”. Even though it was hard for me to say no to that person, it feels imperative to do what the Universe wants these days. Learning more about being sovereign in my relationship with Spirit and only saying yes when Spirit says yes. And I never know until the very moment what the answer is going to be! ❤

  14. Robin says:

    Sounds as thought we are both getting caught up and learning some similar things about dancing, stretching, and sitting with feelings. I’m in the midst of a 12-week course (The Art of Self-Care) that has been amazing (the teacher is very good at using parables and stories to get her point across and I always respond well to stories).
    I love reading about your winter, Kathy, and how you live it. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Robin, we are strangely in sync once again with our spiritual classes. I am glad you are enjoying your three month course. We are so often not very adept at Self-Care, and it’s perhaps a life-long learning curve. My class has been amazing, too. When we describe our learning as “amazing” it sounds like a lot of growth is happening. Glad you enjoyed reading this simple story of my life this winter. ❤

      • Robin says:

        I think we’re often strangely in sync, Kathy. ❤ Yes, there is a lot of growth. This self-care course is not at all what most people would expect in a self-care course. I've been learning about connection and intimacy and openheartedness (through partner work with a stranger who is not a stranger anymore, which I was not expecting and my introverted self is still getting used to that!),, and being in tune with, in sync with, the day and the seasons. Rising early, eating a lighter, earlier dinner, getting a good night's rest. There's been some meditation and yoga thrown in for good measure but mostly it's about being present in the day, in the season, and in the moment. And speaking the good words. 🙂

  15. Reggie says:

    I loved reading about your January in the woods, Kathy. I admire the fact that you are always so curious about spiritual growth and wiling to commit to long deep-reaching courses. And I remember your previous blog of getting outside every day. That’s something I’ve committed to around New Year – going for a walk around the neighbourhood every day. It’s been lovely, but then we are still in the middle of summer! 🙂

    I also learned about Zentangles a couple of years ago – and loved doing it as a practice for about a month or so, using various books for inspiration. Then work deadlines took over my days again. But what a beautiful technique it is of creating art! Such fun too!

    Lots of love to you, Kathy!

    • Kathy says:

      Reggie, how very lovely that you have been going for a walk around your neighborhood every day. That sounds wonderful. And, yes, summer makes it easier. I am finding it quite challenging to walk in recent weeks. So much of the time my exercise comes from shoveling instead. Have actually not stuck with the Zentangles. May still return to it, but often find it challenging to stick to art or craft projects. Do admire those who do, though!

      • Reggie says:

        I know how you feel. Other things take over, and I’ve got so many unfinished creative and craft projects that I could be busy for another lifetime! 😀

  16. It’s been a while since I’ve read a post by you and it was nice to see this one in my mailbox. The photos do more than justice to the cold in your neck of the woods. The snow is beautiful but oh my it is just to cold for me. I like the cold ok but not any such as the ice, snow, and extreme temperatures. I am pretty sure that you are acclimated to it all since you have lived in most of your life.

    Getting in touch with your inner self, I suppose, is beneficial but I don’ think that I would have the patience to put in the work. If it works for you and you are feeling better then by all means keep on with the exercises.

    • Kathy says:

      Yvonne, how nice to hear from you. Interesting that you found this post from a year ago in your inbox. I have not written a blog since last July. Yes, we have lived in snow all our lives, but not snow like exists in the Upper Peninsula. We are both from lower Michigan where the snow and cold are much more moderate. You are right about the patience and time it often takes to get in touch with our inner selves. A lifetime perhaps! Many blessings to you in your warmer world. 🙂

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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