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Winter is here.

Winter has arrived. Always puts me in a bit of a funk here in Georgia where Dec. to March offers mostly gray skies and precipitation. Don’t’ get me wrong, I do love the change of seasons. There is something appealing  about bundling up and curling your hands around a warm cup of coffee when you do venture outside. The sting of cold air sits on your cheeks like a loving slap, a wake up call to get moving and create some internal heat,  but it seems most of my time is spent inside looking out in winter. The natural world looks bare and open, inviting, but each time I heed that invitation I’m forced back in by frozen fingers and a numb nose. I end up gazing out a pane of glass thinking everything looks picture perfect, as long as I’m not actually out there shivering, waiting for the ice to thaw on my wind shied and/or trying to dodge gusts of wind that feel like they’ve come directly from the north pole. I guess after all those years in Florida, I’m just a winter wimp. 

Funny, but despite my obvious dislike of cold, I have always wanted to go skiing. I’m a sporty and I like the outdoors, so its surprising I’ve never tried to ski (not counting water skiing of course.) I just never had the opportunity or enough inspiration to actually arrange a ski vacation. When I was young I worried I’d break a leg and, as a dancer, such a risk seemed foolish at best. Later, I avoided planning a ski trip because everyone told me it was a very expensive pursuit, and since I had no idea whether I’d love it or not, and considering all the other things I’ve wanted to experience in the world, I always put the concept aside choosing some other sort of trip. But still, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it and every winter I’m reminded of that fact. Over the years, I’ve mentioned my latent desire to go to a ski lodge to Mark, but he usually chuckles and says, “You might like it, but I’m guessing you’d try out a slope or two, and then spend the bulk of your vacation in the lodge sipping hot toddies and enjoying a game of cards by the fire. Cold isn’t your thing.”  He’s probably right, but hanging around a ski lodge sounds rather romantic too if you ask me.  If you’re going to spend winter inside looking out, might as well make the “inside” an enticing, different environment. Besides which, I can only assume skiing is like running, that it’s cold only until your body adjusts and heats up from the exertion. Considering that, skiing probably isn’t cold at all the way waiting for your wind shield to thaw is. But since there is no skiing in Georgia, or at least none in my area, and since I doubt I’ll be taking on that lurking “one of these days before I die” dream anytime soon, winter is just a big drag. 

On Monday of this week, I watered my begonias. big lusty plants that I have outside my new business in four big, cement planters. That night we had a cold spell and the very next day the flowers had all withered and died. The sidewalk under them is now stained with big pink blotches where the color literally seeped out of the flower petals and soaked the ground beneath. Every single student that came in that day greeted me with a smile and said, “Did you notice? You’re begonias hit the dust last night.”

Like I could miss these big dead plants that look like they’ve been liquefied.

“Yeah, I’m planning to do something about that but I haven’t decided what.” 

I was offered a variety of solutions, from getting plastic plants (not my idea of perfection for a yoga studio where nature is celebrated) to planting pansies – a very hearty winter resistant flower (so really, it doesn’t make sense that we call people who have no backbone a “pansy”). One student suggested I leave the pots empty. Well, I suppose that could symbolize the yogi’s detachment to the outer world and emptiness as a path to self understanding and . . . who am I kidding. That’s stupid. 

The pots are under the shade so I’m limited with my choices, but I’m thinking some evergreen would be nice. I sure as heck don’t want to keep those dead flowers on display for long, because somehow it makes me sad to see the passing of something so beautiful, even if it is a part of nature’s rebirth. Change is natural and good, but watching it happen stirs up feelings of loss, at least it does for me lately.

This is the time of year when visiting my animals is something I dread – at least until I’m actually out there with them. I have to deal with the frozen hose making it impossible to fill water buckets and frozen latches on gates and other inconveniences, but at the same time, I love running my hands along Donkey’s back and feeling his warm body on my frozen fingers. There is something calming about watching the warm breath leave the horses nostrils as they snort in greeting. For all that I complain, I really like having animals as an excuse to drag myself outside everyday, and sometimes, I stand there, looking out at the calm, snowy pasture and feel moved by the quiet of winter. Even a frozen, barren landscape is beautiful if you just pause to notice the stillness. My horses have grown their heavy winter coats now , so instead of looking gray speckled, they look starkly white, like the abominable snow monster. The donkey, in contrast, looks like he’s wearing a bear skin. My beloved horses are for sale, and someone happens to be coming to look at them this weekend, so each day I remind myself to savor my time left with them, cold or not. I’m ready to let go of the responsibility, but I will miss them dreadfully and it will hurt to imagine someone else enjoying their lovely sweet company when spring arrives. Sometimes you need to let go of the things you love – a non-attachment concept that is big in yoga philosophy, but that doesn’t make it any easier for me, a girl who could hardly be called “enlightened”, though I do my best to be somewhat aware of the world and my place in it.

Anyway, it is cold today and it makes my heart feel heavy. Spring feels a long way away today.  

About Ginny East Shaddock

Ginny is the owner of Heartwood Yoga Institute. She is an ERYT-500 Yoga teacher, C-IAYT Yoga therapist, RCYT & Ayurveda Counselor who loves nature, gardening, and creative arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and a BA in Business Administration from Eckerd College. She teaches writing and is the creator of the memoir writing program, "Yoga on the Page" combining the teaching of yoga to writing personal stories with integrity, intention, and heart.

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