Alpine Lady

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


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The Gateway Month: January

The Insight that comes from Observing Nature

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, the god of change and transition, of gates and doorways. He faces two directions, forward and back, and yet, there’s a third face. That face is the imperceptible instant when the event passes into its other form or status: snow tumbles from the trees as it gives into the effects of gravity; upon walking out into the cold air your warm breath becomes visible as “Dragon Breath”; the full moon gives way to waning moon and the cycle begins anew; but the ultimate Janus moment for December is, of course, the winter solstice whereas the shortest day gives way to lengthening days. These ephemeral, Janus moments offer incredible opportunities for the curious mind.

Full moon gives way to waning moon

Full moon gives way to waning moon

An interesting celestial event involving such moments occurs with Saturn’s fifth and sixth satellites, Epimetheus and Janus. Saturn is my astrological birth planet. Two of her sixty-two moons are “co-orbital.” 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 approximately every four years they exchange places. I wonder what amount of energy is produced at that exact Janus moment of exchange. Is it a hard bump, a gentle pulse or like a magnet, a definitive repulsion? Something to ponder…

Saturn as seen from Cassini UVIS Mission.

Saturn as seen from Cassini UVIS Mission.

Of course, those who live in rural areas may have more opportunities for observing and appreciating the natural world and these fleeting moments that occur; however the simplest action that gives me the fullest potential for observing natural cycles no matter where I am, is my breathing. As a meditator, I spend time observing the natural inflow and outflow of the breath and its regulating effect on my bodily systems.

Reflection pool in the Japanese Garden.

Reflection pool in the Japanese Garden at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC

In mindful practice, we acknowledge a thought happening but releasing any attachment to it so that insight may occur. However there are many times during the day when I’m not actively sitting that I can become 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 can acknowledge my thoughts. Is what I’m thinking the reason I am holding my breath? Is my heart racing because my thoughts are anxious? Maybe because my body is flooded with emotion at the sight of thirteen eagles perched atop a cottonwood tree at the edge of a lake. Maybe from watching a red-tailed hawk dive at 120 mph to grab a pocket gopher off the lip of its mound; recognizing that a tall, ancient cedar tree which we have honored for years, has crashed on the wetlands adjacent to the river; or when I catch the subtle fragrance of a wild ginger wafting up from the forest floor.

Grandmother Cedar along Dungeness River lies at rest

Grandmother Cedar lies at rest along the Dungeness River, Olympic Peninsula, WA

Creative artists naturally seek attunement to the fleeting moment that gives them insight, that Gestault moment, the Janus moment, the Eureka moment in the construction or play of their piece.  That opening where it all begins to flow as one…

Puka shell on Hana, HI beach.

Puka shell on Hana, Maui Island Hawaii beach. Puka is a Hawaiian word for hole.

By keeping the natural rhythms and cycles of life in tune with cultural events such as Solstice and Christmas, the Spring Equinox and Ostara, we balance the demands of the holiday on our  health and psyche; and by taking time to examine the patterns in the heavens, the cycles of the natural world before focusing in on issues within our environmental, political and global society, by taking that breath, or noticing the way a bird’s wing curves through the air, how storms signal their approach, or in hearing a frog croak, we may be able to open space long enough for insight to assist in the finding of creative solutions.

A gull drifts over riding the wind currents

A gull drifts over riding the wind currents

Relax, seek stillness
allow for insight to rise ~
the answer is nigh.

~

Still…
stillness,
an impulse
that activates thought…
utmost potential.

~

Mists and the full moon
rising and passing away,
Morning’s mindfulness.

Until we journey together again, may your path be filled with reflective moments of peace and beauty. Stay safe. ~ P