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A View From The Woods

By Loni Kemp

Fri, Feb 1st, 2013
Posted in All Arts & Culture

Seasonal Surrender

Now is the time of hunkering down. I’m not leaving home, not reaching out, not outward-focused. These precious deep winter weeks are giving me permission to slow down, look inward and rest.

I rise on a winter-storm-warning morning, elated to know today I have to stay off the roads and out of the woods. I light a fire, marveling at the success of my newly discovered method of starting a fire. Big logs on the bottom, medium sticks laid crosswise, topped with kindling, a shred of birchbark, and a crispy pinecone. I light the birchbark, the pine cone flares up, the kindling starts to burn, and—here’s the thing I never knew before—the fire naturally drops down as it catches. No more tending and laying on sticks and logs, hoping not to put the little fire out. The fire finds its own way down to the big wood.

Reflecting on new discoveries and perfecting life habits is a satisfaction of winter.

Some people hate January. I, too, sometimes get a sinking sensation on New Year’s Day, putting away the holiday decorations while noting that there is almost nothing on the new calendar. No parties, no concerts, long nights, little to look forward to in a drab, brown and white world. Then I realize I’m ready for this season. It is the time to slow down.

Now the whole day, a doubly precious Sunday with no work expectations, spreads before me in endless quiet possibilities. I eat my granola and yogurt, listening to the taps of freezing rain on the window, and do the crossword puzzles from yesterday’s Star Tribune.

I can read all morning if I want to, or catch the Sunday political shows on TV. I may wander over to the piano and pick up the Bach Two Part Inventions I’ve been working on. Every note must be fingered perfectly, or else Bach’s devilish melodies fall off the musical cliff when I run out of fingers. While practicing, my brain may drop into the zone of total absorption, or wander away in trite musings. Either way is fine.

This could be a great day to inventory and order my spring seeds. Maybe I’ll cook green pea soup from summer’s frozen harvest, or blend up a batch of hummus. I’ve got some mending to do, many unseen movies recorded, and a letter to write. Best of all might be a little nap, or a long corpse pose after doing yoga, which amounts to the same thing.

Deep winter is the time for these personally rewarding activities, too easily trumped the rest of the year by more urgent tasks, meetings, client invoices, laundry, and social events.

We crave the busy required and regular commitments that give our lives shape and focus the rest of the year. Yet these leisurely, almost selfish, hours of deep winter provide nourishment for our souls. What we love to do in solitude gives us comfort and satisfaction.

The rhythm of the seasons helps shape a balanced rhythm in our lives.


1 or 2 garlic cloves

1-15 ounce can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

Juice of a lemon

4 Tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste, optional)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt and Pepper

More olive oil and paprika to garnish

Drop garlic cloves into a food processor or blender to chop finely. Drain garbanzos, saving the liquid, and add beans to processor and blend until smooth. Add a small amount of the reserved liquid if needed. Add lemon juice, tahini and olive oil, and process. Add salt and pepper to taste. Scoop into a bowl and top with generous coat of olive oil and sprinkling of paprika. Dip with warm pita slices, tortilla chips, or carrot and other veggie sticks. Or, spread on bread or crackers for a light lunch. Traditionally served with black olives.

Hummus is tasty and healthy as is, or jazz it up with an optional ingredient like chopped parsley, ground cumin, hot sauce, roasted garlic, roasted peppers or dried tomatoes.


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10:29:54, Feb 5th 2013

Sally Keating says:
You have articulated so well the reasons to love January, snow, cold, winter, and darkness. Of course, I love January... because it is my birthday month, but, more so (really!), it is the time of simplicity, paring down, introspection. Having returned to Minnesota after a decade in the South, I feel I have regained a deep psychic balance fostered by the comfort of this starker time of quiet and 'reflection and perfection'. The ability to close in may be essential to the human soul. The dark months aren't always pretty or comfortable, but they are restorative in a way known to our Northern ancestors many millennia ago and still available to us if we listen and give ourselves permission to slow down. Thank you, Loni!

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