By Dr. Mattie Decker
The Rocky Broad River is loud below. Somedays it is a song. Today it is a symphony, filling my imagination with wonder.
Why does gazing up at the mountains bring such calm? Can you say? Can you describe the feeling in your chest when you pause to look up? When all else down below seems so calamitous and filled with strife? Those of us who live here in the Hickory Nut Gorge of western North Carolina throughout the four seasons, or even those who pass through, can know this and marvel when we take the time to pause. How many times do I think, as I round the lake coming down from the grocery and see the lake framed with these magnificent mountains, “this could be somewhere in Europe.”
It is always an invitation. To take a breath. To pause. To relax, and to open.
We are in deep winter now. All is quiet in the forest. The bears know we are here. The trees know we are here. But all are sleeping and resting, up high in the rocky cliffs and caves, or down beneath the ground. It won’t last for long, though it may seem so on the gray days and the quiet evenings.
I want to know this stillness and this rest. It’s as if all the earth is calling out, “slow down, now, pay attention to this wisdom from the land that is laying fallow for a while now. You can do this, too.”
Recently, a friend shared Katherine May’s book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times (Riverhead Books, 2020) I ponder these words: “Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. . . .They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. . . .Once we stop wishing it were summer, winter can be a glorious season in which the world takes on a sparse beauty and even the pavements sparkle. It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order.”
Indeed, a time (and some space, perhaps) to reflect.
I love the New Year, and each new month.
In the New Year we have twelve months before us, spaces of days and weeks to pause, to ask, what is important now? What changes might I invite in my life?
Here, I cannot help think of Thoreau, who wrote, inspiring me as a twenty-something looking toward my life, and even now, as I consider my life here:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear…”
Mattie Decker teaches Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. She is also a certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, and guides “forest bathing” walks with Conserving Carolina and Asheville Wellness Tours. firstname.lastname@example.org