Winter to Spring

As winter acquiesces to springtime in the mountains,

light peals back the darkness of morning

earlier and earlier,

and stays later and later

each day.

Like a dinner party invitee,

The Light is akin to that dude who

awkwardly and unexpectedly arrives

way ahead of the appointed time of the soiree.

And later,

after all the food is gone and the dishes are put away,

and the roar of the fire is down to its flickering embers,

The Light is that last lingering guest,

begging the host to question:

What the heck is this guy still doing here?

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Winter Saunter

Thankfully, I’m not easily intimidated by winter weather driving – I mean really, I have a Subaru for goodness sake, this is, in part, what they’re made for. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are times when it would be ill-advised to venture out, but I did not deem today to be one of those days.

Instead, I labeled today’s blustery conditions and smoke-machine-esque ice-marbled roads as a prime time to uphold my self-proclaimed status as a gal who enjoys pushing against the commonly held feminine norms, such as exists around: traveling solo, driving in inclement weather on sketchy roads, and eating out in public with only the company of a good book and writing supplies.

After an hour spent at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee, I landed at the Dixon Mercantile, a place so delightfully quaint that I instantly felt right at home.

There’s something extremely satisfying and life-affirming in skirting collective modes of operation, such as heading north on a solo saunter on Sunday February 3rd in near white-out conditions, and living to tell the tale.

P.S If you live in the area or are ever in the area of western Montana, the Dixon Mercantile (in Dixon, MT) is only 40 miles from Missoula and they are almost solely only open on Sundays from 9-2 for brunch. The owner Laura is super great, the food was really good, and they make homemade fresh bread and pastries. Need I say more?

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Yesterday, I spent 5 uninterrupted hours writing, pretty well glued in the same spot the whole time with only the occasional tea making and bio break to incite bodily movement away from my keyboard. It was glorious.

Today, I road on up north, as any asphalt adventurer knows, it’s unwise to disobey the call of the open road when it summons thee. I followed tire tracks instead of painted lines and in an area thick with mountains, I managed to see none all the way to Arlee and then Dixon.

To be fair, I did consider not heading out on my drive-about prior to leaving the house, once I was confronted with the state of weather happening outside. But it was only about 2% of me that sat in question; the other 98% urged me eagerly onward ho.

Besides, I DID go to all the trouble of running a brush through my hair like two times before putting a winter hat on AND putting on cold-hardy clothes over the top of my pajamas. I was also well equipped with the essentials of winter travel: a fresh Contigo full of tea, my camera, writing supplies, a Subaru, and a good attitude.

And, I figured, one never grows familiar and accustomed to a thing, if said thing is never done.

Sometimes, what’s called for is to foster connection with members of my beloved tribe of humans, as I did last weekend. And sometimes, what’s called for is to bolster the relationship I have with myself, as I’ve been doing this weekend.

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Holiday Traditions

Pic taken Christmas Day 2016, on the trail to Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs

Every year on Christmas Day, my husband and I venture to Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs, for a 1-mile hike (one way) & soak in the woods. Neither of us connect with the celebration of Christmas. To us, it’s just another day on the calendar, which affords us a day off from our regular routine and to-do lists. We’ve been springing it on Christmas Day for quite a number of years now – it’s one of our very few annual traditions. And, I’ll add, is simply glorious.

Back when we first got married, in 2000, we tried our hand at celebrating the winter solstice and came up with a few possible traditions to carry forward each December, but it proved to be too forced for us and we soon gave up any sort of formal way of commemorating the seasonal changing of the guard. We both grew up celebrating Christmas – not on religious grounds but on consumeristic ones. And I have incredibly fond memories of it as a child. But neither of us were interested in fueling the drive of the holidays when we started co-creating our lives as adults together.

Many years ago, after receiving a plethora of well-intentioned but ultimately un-neccesary gifts from relatives in the mail each December, we decided to craft a letter to send to our dear family members. As the writer in our household, it was important to me that the letter both express our gratitude for their generosity and our firm desire to discontinue the further receiving of gifts, in as warm-hearted a way as possible. I wanted to do my best to create as little offense as I could, making sure to focus on our appreciation for their kindness and our love for them. And, rather to my surprise, it worked! While not everyone understood our position, they all respected our heartfelt request.

The month of December is the only time I’m grateful for living so far away from my family, as I really don’t know how I would negotiate this festive time of year if I had family around who were celebrating Christmas in the traditional ways that I grew up with and were requesting my attendance to join them. Fortunately, though, that’s not a thing I need to put much thought into.

Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to connect with all the ways that people find this time of year joyful, as I can grow callous in regards to the amount of waste, stress, hardship, and debt that accumulate around Christmas – and the furthering of such rampant, detrimental notions and ways of relating to each other and the world at large. But non-duality continues to ring true! In this case, the teachings of non-duality play out in the simple truth that both things are happening at the same time: there are elements of Christmas that are full of delight and joy and there are elements of great disharmony and destruction.

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Train Song

This is the un-earthing of a song I wrote around 10 years ago, while riding on a train bound for North Dakota. After scouring a dozen old journals for all the lyrics, I finally found them this morning!

Train Song

Written by Nicole Dunn

What once were mountains now are hills
under cover of night they’ll flatten still,
until little distinction can be made
between the icy landscape
and the over-casted sky

Winter comes but once a year
staying however long it takes
for mother earth to rest –
and we while cloaked in warmth,
know little of her journey

So rest now, if you can,
en route to your destination
on cold slick metal tracks –
Rest now, if you can,
sweet people,
through the clicks and the clacks
through the bumps and the jolts

With a gentle rocking beneath it all,
we’re on a land bound boat
gliding between ripples of time

And we ride on with a soft whistle
blowing early in the morning
or late at night
I’m not sure which

What once were mountains now are hills
under cover of night they’ll flatten still,
until little distinction can be made
between the icy landscape
and the over-casted sky

Back to the Woods

dscn5229Jerry Johnson Hot Springs trail, December 25th, 2016, Idaho

Becoming part of a winterscape thick with cedar,
walking tall among elder trunks
and undergrowth buried in snow,
we communed with a part of ourselves
that often lies dormant.

Under nature’s influence
we can be guided back to what has been forgotten.
And when we are ushered
from our slumber to remember,
we will continue to return,
over and over,
back to the woods.

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Winter Ocean

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Winter Ocean

Snow drapes the town in satin white,
tucking us warmly into shelter.
I see the ocean in its crystalline form,
saturating flat undulating ground.

Transported to the sun-drenched Jersey shore days of my youth,
I feel the salt water tangle in my hair,
as swells of laughter and gulls peak between the ocean’s inhale and exhale.
Bare skin and unadorned feet browning and cracking.

My gaze catches on the snow when it falls
and on the ocean when I’m near it,
the same way it used to when I’d primp on the beaches
to flirt with boys.
My gaze, while peripheral, was held steady by them, too.

But, in the cute, summer boys I would lose myself
in romantic sojourns –
and in the shifting forms of water,
I regain my sovereignty amid each circulating droplet,
remembering with quivering assurance,
that I, too,
have been part of this landscape
since the very beginning.

Resting

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As the winter solstice approaches may we learn well from the lessons of nature on how to rest.  Not the sort of resting we may think of initially that we mistakenly label as lazy or ineffectual or selfish, probably even unnecessary.  But the sort of resting that contains a great sense of importance, wisdom, and purpose.  Nature does not rest without intention.  Nature rests to continue its varied and diverse manifestations in order to sustain its dependents – animals, plants, minerals, us.  The beauty of the gentle waters, fragrant trees, and penetrating skies relies on the art of resting – on the ability to be set free in the stillness between breaths.

Flats

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