Alpine Lady

Honoring the natural world through prose, poetry, music, sounds, photographs and musings.


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Janus Moments and Naturally Observing the Simple Things

My birthday occurs in January, the opening month of the year in the Julian calendar. Its name is derived from Janus, an earlier god of the Roman pantheon. He’s the god of change and transition, of gates and doorways. He faces two directions, forward and backward, and yet, there’s a third face. That face is the imperceptible instant when the event passes into its other form or status. It gives rise to the thought of “You can never step into the same river twice.” I call those moments “Janus moments” and upon examination, they offer incredible opportunities for the curious mind.

December is full of Janus moments. I’m sure you can up with many. For me, examples include: that moment when snow tumbles from the trees as it gives into the effects of gravity; warm breath becomes visible as “Dragon Breath” upon walking out into the cold air; a lighting bolt slashes through the sky; the full moon gives way to waning moon and the cycle begins anew; snow shifts to rain and back again; but the ultimate Janus moment for December is, of course, the winter solstice whereas the shortest day gives way to lengthening days.

Casssini photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Casssini photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

An interesting celestial event involving Janus occurs with Saturn’s sixth satellite named Janus. Saturn is my astrological birth planet. When I began researching Saturn’s moons, I discovered that two of her sixty-two moons are “co-orbital.” The other moon being Epidmetheus. In essence, their orbital velocities are about equal and their orbits so similar that when the lower faster one overtakes the other, they exchange a bit of momentum, the end result boosts the lower one into the higher orbit and to drop the higher one into a lower orbit, thus exchanging places approximately every four years. I wonder what amount of energy is produced at that exact Janus moment of exchange. Is it a hard bump or just a gentle pulse? Something to ponder…

Of course, for those who live in rural areas, there may be more opportunities for observing and appreciating the natural world and the Janus moments that occur. But perhaps the simplest thing that gives me the fullest potential for observing natural cycles no matter where I am is my breath. As a meditator, I spend time observing the natural inflow and outflow of the breath and its regulating effect on my bodily systems. The exact moment of the exchange being a Janus moment, as well.

In mindfulness practice, we are taught to acknowledge a thought happening but to release any attachment to it so that insight may occur. However there are many times during the day when I am not actively sitting that I am aware of my breath, checking its speed and rhythm, if it’s from the belly or the chest, stuffy or flowing easy. At the same time I attempt to acknowledge my thoughts. Is what I’m thinking the reason I am holding my breath? Is my heart racing because my thoughts are anxious? If my thoughts help to shape my state of health, perhaps I need to take measures to insure my thoughts are healthy, as well.

Awareness of our breath’s rhythm is another opportunity to look around our environment and seeing if there’s something we might have missed if we had not taken that moment. Perhaps it’s the way the light is shining on an icicle, a frosty touch on a leaf, a spider crawling around during the day which might portend unsettled weather in the not-too-distant future.

Michael's capture of Christmas tree reflection on rain drenched patio.

Michael’s capture of Christmas tree reflection on rain-drenched patio.

If we balance the natural rhythms and cycles of life with cultural events such as Solstice and Christmas, we can respond in a reasonable manner to the demands of the holiday. Winter Solstice is a celebration of the yearly cycle beginning anew. It designates the return of the sun and is a time for seeding hope. Whether celebrated by Native Americans with feasting and drum circle, the birth of the Christian’s Christ Child, or the Celt’s birth of the new Sun King, it can be a time for the acknowledgment of the process of resurrection and change. The lengthening days provides the impulse to do just that.

And so the year passes, four seasons, 52 weeks, 13 orbits of the lunar planet we call our moon. Within that year the 12 signs of the zodiac give us the patterning for our intentions. In our youth the year begins so slowly but as we age, the year begins at a furious pace and races through to completion. But if we take the time to examine the patterns in the heavens, the cycles of the natural world and then focus on issues within our culture and global society, we have a choice to remain in dysfunctional comfort or assisted by a Janus moment, take a move towards freedom and light. A momentary hesitation is all that’s needed to bring proper awareness, to stop the nonsense and end our confusion.

Until next time, blessings on a peace-filled holiday season.