Winter Spiral

Traveling toward the center, my thoughts are busy. I am letting go of the morning’s shoveling and stretching my legs. The idea of making a spiral in the fresh, deep snow sounded like play. But then I begin and a vision of what could be interferes with what is.

The emerging spiral is oblong. That’s not what I had in mind. Disappointment flickers in for a flash before I let it go.

Our dog, Karma, follows me around the first layer, grateful to be going for a walk and glad to walk in my footprints rather than the belly-high snow. A few feet into the second loop, she pauses, looks at me forging ahead and then crosses from the inner layer to the outer one and follows our trail back to the house. Apparently, she’d rather sit on the steps and wait for me to let her in then walk in circles! I look at the path she’s made by crossing the layers. “The spiral is ruined” flutters across my mind for a brief second. I let that go too.

For a moment, I consider abandoning this attempt and starting anew or joining Karma in retreat. But I was drawn to this exercise for a reason I do not yet know; I am curious to see how it “turns out”. And I am surprised by the critical observations intruding on my play. They are surprising but not unfamiliar. This is how it can be when I am turned inward — serious, exacting, overly-concerned, moving towards a vision of what could be, nearly missing what is.

There is beauty and humor in Karma’s wisdom, sitting on the steps while I walk in circles. I keep walking and turning, turning, turning towards the center. I walk mini-circles to create a mini-landing, a turning-around place. I am suddenly aware of how, after the first two layers of the spiral, my mind had quieted. For several layers, there had not been thought of perfection or imperfection of purpose or play. There had only been the slow and continual movement toward the center.

Now here, at the heart of the spiral, I pause and look up, noticing the glint of light on the snow and the call of the birds in the trees. We are turning toward spring and the birds and sunlight are sparkly in the face of this late winter snow. I pause to appreciate the gifts of both seasons, meeting here on this day that I get to appreciate.

As I turn to walk outwards, I am rejuvenated. My movement is lighter and easier. I am not thinking, I am just doing, moving outwards in the work that is mine to do. As a teacher, a friend, a parent, a partner, this is the way it is. When I am in motion and in relationship, there is an ease. I just move forward to the next right thing.

It is when I turn inward that there is a risk of getting caught in my head with second-guessing myself or judging what is against what could be. But introspection and reflection are also fuel and nourishment for outer life.

I am reminded that maintaining a healthy balance in my life requires paying attention to both the inner life and the outer expression. One is not complete without the other, and both benefit from an embrace of imperfection, humility, and humor. This is not new news to me but I guess I needed a reminder.

I’ll keep walking the spiral until the snow melts. Perhaps there are more reminders waiting around the next turn.