Friday, January 13, 2012

Stillness


Winter, in its dormancy, has a stillness that permeates through the echoes between the branches. Many trees do not have the vibrancy of their leaves, and much of the perennial landscape has abandoned life above the soil and gone into a still and gentle hibernation. Some species of animals take this time to hibernate in warmer dens--their voices silent--not to be seen or heard until spring. Nature's vivid colors are absent, and the gray and brown hues have a restful quality about them.


In winter, I am able to find stillness more than in any other time of the year. In the spring, I am active with preparing the garden for the growing season. Summer is filled with maintaining the growing plants. And autumn is a time when things slow down, but there is lots to do to clean up and prepare for winter.  At this time of year, the garden is resting, sleeping, still, and I find myself moving a bit more slowly and having more breathing space in between tasks.

If water derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind! The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation. - Chuang Tzu

In Traditional Chinese medicine, the Chinese believe that for optimal health we humans should live in harmony with nature. The seasons guide us by dictating where we should focus our energies. Winter is a time of rest and replenishment, a time to conserve our energy so we may have more vitality once the activities of spring begin. It is a time of reflection and introspection.


As stillness is one of the words I have chosen to guide me through this new year of 2012, I am content to find stillness in this cold and windy winter and carry it through to spring, summer, and fall. To find those moments during the mass of deadlines, the prattle of mind chatter, and the bustle of chores as the year steps into spring is a welcome challenge. I hope to stop my clock periodically and sit abidingly in the stillness to remind me of its cherished value.


Many years ago, winter was my least favorite season. The gray cloudy and cold days could bring me to the brink of depression. Colors were dull, and the forest seemed lifeless. The days seemed to linger and never move to the next. The holidays were over, and it seemed there was nothing for me to look forward to until spring when the gold of daffodils and the lively colors of tulips adorned the landscape. Over time, I found the wisdom and value in bringing my attention to rest and replenishment. Now, I welcome it. Winter seems to be a season when there is more of an expanse of time. I have eventually found the magic in settling in stillness.


Nature consistently and calmly demonstrates its wisdom by simply following its age-old rhythm. No matter what happens, winter comes, rest comes--and the stillness predominates.

When winds are raging o'er the upper ocean
And billows wild contend with angry roar,
'Tis said, far down beneath the wild commotion
That peaceful stillness reigneth evermore.
-- Harriet Beecher Stowe

I am linking up with Holly at Your Gardening Friend for Friday's Photo Blog Hop.

© copyright 2012 Michelle A. Potter

84 comments:

  1. Your photo's are gorgeous.
    Have a lovely weekend
    Marijke

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  2. There is something to be said about winter, and you said it well :)

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  3. Some great photos you got with the ice there. The only thing about winter for me is that those wonderful times when ice and snow drape on plants and trees.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  4. Very well said and such great wisdom. I tend to focus my energies on all the indoor tasks that go neglected during the other seasons when I am focused on the garden. I think stopping and remember the cherish the stillness is very wise.

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  5. Lovely reflection of thoughts and pics.

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  6. I too think you captured the feeling of winter in your words and images. Both are very lovely and have a kind of philosophical look at the season.

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  7. I do love winter- I enjoy the burrowing in feeling, the close connections with family curled up with simple pleasures such as hot cocoa and knitting. Many heartfelt conversations are had during these times.
    Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

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  8. These sentiments really resonated for me, Michelle. I, too, feel like winter provides space to slow down and savor the moment. A few evening s ago, I took time out from preparing dinner to turn out all the lights and watch the full moon rise through the woods behind my house. Enjoy the stillness. -Jean

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  9. Such a great reflection on the stillness and quiet of your winter.

    I wonder what Chuang Tzu might have said about places in the world that don't have a winter as such. Here in the tropics, our gardens don't go to sleep and there is no sense of stillness about the time of year we refer to as winter.

    We live in harmony with only two real 'seasons' here. The rhythms of nature here are entirely different. It was very interesting to read your perspective though.

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  10. Nicely presented shots and thoughts.
    Winter does provide ample photo opportunities too.

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  11. A nicely reflective post - it made me feel calm just reading it. Lovely winter shots too.

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  12. All your photos and article convey all the emotions of winter. I love most the photos, they are truly lovely, seemingly different when the space is viewed in wide angle. Our equivalent of your winter for stillness and dormancy is our dry season. Some plants also lay dormant in the soil and be alive again after the first heavy rains.

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  13. What a wonderful and wise post! Your images and narrative really show the beauty of stillness. As I get older, I think I appreciate the beauty of winter and this time to rest and rejuvenate more and more.

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  14. Beautiful shots!!!! Truly captured the beauty of winter. Nice quotes as well.

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  15. How lovely! Funnily enough we seem to be on the same wavelength, I think winter is a time for reflection alright.

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  16. While I am glad that our winters are short, I am equally glad that I don't live in a zone that has no gardening rest. Great images.

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  17. Beautiful photographs! Makes me almost miss Winter ... almost ;-)

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  18. Amen to all of that! As I have become busier with my gardening business, I so appreciate the rest I get during the winter now, and it gives me an opportunity to really evaluate my garden to see where I can make any changes. Thankfully our winters are mild enough that I incorporate those changes during the winter when things are not quite as busy with my work.

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  19. @marijke Thanks, Marijke! You have a good weekend as well.

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  20. @NHGarden It has taken me a while to appreciate nature's winter, but I am glad I finally did.

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  21. @Sunray Gardens Cher, I also like the beauty of snow on the landscape...makes it all wonderful to view.

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  22. @Karin / Southern Meadows Karin, it is a great idea to focus on the indoor projects. We do some of that as well...many of the ones we are unable to get to in the other months.

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  23. @Rohrerbot Thanks, Rohrerbot. I am glad I finally was able to find the beauty in winter.

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  24. @gardenwalkgardentalk.com Thanks, Donna. It was a pleasure to seek out images to represent stillness in winter.

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  25. @Amelia Amelia, I like your idea for using winter as a time to relate with family and enjoy each other.

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  26. @jeansgarden Jean, I am inspired by your idea to take time in stillness to watch nature put on her show. Now, I have another way of enjoying that stillness...what a beautiful thought to sit and observe the moon as it rises in the sky.

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  27. @Bernie H I imagine living in harmony with nature would mean following whatever the season dictates. I think there is a stillness and calm in tropical climates as well.

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  28. @Indrani Thanks, Indrani. We had a dusting of snow this past week, and I was able to get a few winter shots.

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  29. @Dewi Thanks, Dewi...and thanks for visiting.

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  30. @elaine rickett Thanks, Elaine. I like the stillness and calm of winter...now.

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  31. @Andrea Thanks, Andrea. It sounds very interesting to live in a place with a dry and wet season...different from here...although we experience short dry and wet periods.

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  32. @Rose Thanks, Rose. I suppose when I was younger, I felt somewhat stifled by the stillness and limitations of winter. Now, I welcome the rest.

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  33. @kacky Thanks, Kacky. Winter is such an interesting season even though it appears so dull. I am glad I was able to finally see its offerings.

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  34. @Foxglove Lane More and more, I find that time for reflection is so important in many areas of my life.

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  35. @HolleyGarden Like you, Holley, I am glad I live in an area with four seasons. There is so much interest especially in the garden. However, I must confess, there are those moments when I dream of living in Hawaii. :)

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  36. @Gone Tropical I don't know if I would miss it or not. Probably, if I lived in a tropical zone, I would find stillness in other ways and other seasons.

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  37. @Toni - Signature Gardens Winter is a nice and nourishing time to rest. I, too, begin to think about what I want to change.

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  38. Such a blessing to have come to terms with winter. I spent large portions of my childhood in regions where there was snow in winter and I remember the same feelings. Now winter is the time when rain comes and wakes up all the weeds so it is a busier time in the garden for me than even summer. It is also the time when I get major projects installed because summer is too hot and it has become my season to rest.

    Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

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  39. Like you I have recently found winter to be a welcome respite. Partly due to moving to a colder climate we are really contained inside our house but I find it nice too having the time to rest and take on a different sort of activity.

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  40. It's funny but the older I get the more I enjoy winter. I still don't like driving in the snow but I do love the quiet and stillness you highlight so beautifully. I couldn't imagine living in a place that did not have a winter break to recharge my soul.

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  41. While winter is still my least favorite season, but I agree I appreciate January more as I get older. After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, slowing down for a few weeks is very peaceful. But February and March (in Wisconsin, at least) are the worst months of the year. This year it won't be quite as bad because winter didn't really hit here until our snowstorm on Thursday. Beautiful thoughts and photos!

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  42. My favorite winters were the ones when I could go for walks in the woods with my dog--you really are aware of that stillness on the forest floor when it's all covered in snow. Lovely post, Michelle--you've reminded me of all the good reasons not to grumble my way through February.

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  43. Thanks for your nice comment on my blog, and for following.

    What a wonderful post :) I love the photos and your reflections on winter. You have a beautiful blog!

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  44. beautiful Michelle, words and photos a lovely post, enjoy your stillness,

    one of the things I love about island life is it doesn't have the rush and bussle of the mainland, Frances

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  45. I love winter too. I can't imagine living without its cold and snow. I am happy today because it is snowing! Love your words and images. Stay warm!

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  46. I enjoy the respite of winter as well, but wish it didn't last as long as it does!

    The pictures are stunning.

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  47. I love the new look of your blog and appreciate the truth of its message. I am not a very still person and need winter to force myself to slow down. I think that's the true wisdom of winter - we need dormancy sometimes as much as nature does. So glad to have you back. :o)

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  48. Nice pictures of ice... Not an easy pic to take... I'm truly grateful that I haven't had many opportunities to practice...

    The stillness of thought is a nice goal to strive for... but... in moderation... It can be frustrating not having anything to say...
    (I gotta go jump-start the rodent in the squirrel cage, get the brain to fire)

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  49. That is some great photography. I can almost feel the stillness of winter through your pics. Great post!
    garden furniture

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  50. It's one of the blessings of maturity isn't it? Recognizing the health and necessity of rest. Winter was always my least favorite season too but this year I've really appreciated the stillness in my garden and the simple colors. I can say with certainty right now that I really like it!

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  51. I so enjoyed your essay and your photos. It seems from reading blogs that a lot of people have trouble with winter. I think you are right that our trouble comes from resisting the stillness.

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  52. Hi, nice to meet you online. I’m contented with the stillness you found and I totally agree with your thoughts contained in the poetic narratives and fascinating images. The glinting snowflakes on the plants are so refreshing and soothing. Winter would be well-earned rest for the Nature and for the gardeners.

    Yoko from Japan

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  53. Indeed, stillness is a healthy way of reflecting and knowing ourselves even better, slowing down and taking time to appreciate everything around us...

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  54. Stillness is a great art to learn - I'm still practicing and trying to teach it to myself decades after committing to trying to find it within myself.

    I love the photo from your last post too.

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  55. @Cindy Garber Iverson I think it is interesting which areas have what seasons during the year. You obviously make the most of whatever comes.

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  56. @Marguerite I like the idea of having different seasons to do (or not do) different things. I like cozying up to the fire, and reading a book in the winter as well.

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  57. @Debbie/GardenOfPossibilities I don't like driving in the snow either...too treacherous. The seasons, for me, provide interest and various experiences that I really appreciate.

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  58. @PlantPostings We have had a mild winter here as well. However, I wonder if February will bring us those snow storms of winter.

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  59. @Stacy Winter is a good time to take walks in the woods. There is a lot farther to see, and with snow, it can be so beautiful.

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  60. @Hilde Thanks, Hilde. Even though the weather has been like a see-saw, it is still winter.

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  61. @Island Threads Thanks, Frances. Whenever my husband and I vacation in Hawaii, I can feel the lessening of the tension. It really is more relaxing.

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  62. @Tatyana@MySecretGarden That is great, Tatyana. Snow makes me happy as well. I hope we get some soon!

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  63. @Debra @ Gardens Inspired Thanks, Debra. Sometimes our winters last longer than others, and I begin to yearn for spring.

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  64. @Casa Mariposa Winter sort of has the same effect on me...it is a good time to rest.

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  65. @Gardens-In-The-Sand We have not had much snow or ice. I am hoping for more fluffy snow.

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  66. @derrickjo Thanks, derrickjo, for your kind comments.

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  67. @Cat I think you are right, Cat. With maturity comes a respect and appreciation of many things.

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  68. @stardust Thanks, Yoko. Nature, indeed, deserves a long rest after giving so much beauty and sustenance to us all.

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  69. @hardinars It is nice to appreciate it all once in a while. The coming and going can be exhausting.

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  70. @Mrs Bok - The Bok Flock It is a challenge in our way of life. I like that winter helps me make time for it.

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  71. As much as I sometimes find myself wishing away cold winter days, I think that a year without a winter season would lack interest and variety. The seasons would seem flatter and more monotonous. I tend to use winter for dreaming and planning. In a way it is restful, but invigorating at the same time.

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  72. Great photos of the ice crystals on the evergreens and hydrangea. It looks they have been coated with sugar. Sweet!

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  73. Beautiful, reflective post. I love the images. For us winter is only a pause and a deep breath, getting ready, set, go! By next month spring chores will be urgent, though winter may still return for a few days here and there. I have come to think of summer as our time to rest, for then it really is miserable to be outside working.

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  74. Wise words, indeed. Stillness. I like it.

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  75. @Jennifer@threedogsinagarden I would miss winter very much as well. I like having seasons.

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  76. @nittygrittydirtman It is only appropriate that hydrangea be sprinkled with sugar. Thanks foe that image!

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  77. @debsgarden spring has that effect on me as well...hurry up and get it all done.

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'I see trees of green, red roses, too
I see 'em bloom for me and for you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world'
--What a Wonderful World

Thank you for visiting The Sage Butterfly blog. I enjoy reading your charming reflections very much. Have a great day!

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