The Winter season is here once again. Every year I find myself trying to end my blogging year with a few words about winter. This year the task feels even more important to me than ever before. Through the winter months I try to reflect on the past months and think about the new coming year. I like the idea of keeping in sync with nature and the seasons. Here in Colorado you can see the retracting of all living things in nature. The trees are bare and dormant, the grass dies off and the waters flow thin in the creeks. The fish are likely hiding deep in undercuts and wherever they can find shelter and conserve energy over the cold winter months. While we have had an unseasonably warm winter in Colorado so far, we have also had some fronts move through and drop snow which still sits in patches in cold spots and shadows.
As I take stock of the last year I realize that we have all had to make some pretty big changes in our lives and so I think it is even more important this year to do some deep work in examining our lives going forward into the next year. For myself, the pandemic has made me rethink my vocation and career as an entertainer. My magic business has come to a full stop. I was fortunate to have a part time job doing communication work at the University of Colorado that has been able to provide me with more work than before.
The hardest hit of the new year though for my family and I was loss of my father in law this last October. We continue to grieve and mourn his passing. His death left me with much to think about. He was a great man who lived a full and valuable life. He loved his work and was a leader in his specialized field of genetics and identifying inborn genetic disorders. He was in his 80's and continued to work and refused to retire He was one of the smartest people I have ever met. He was also a lover of the outdoors. He spent his free time doing wildlife photography and traveled all over the United States and the world to capture some really amazing photos. In tribute, I have included a few of his pictures on this post as well as a slideshow of his work.
I think we tend to put so much trust in things being secure and we mistake things in life as being permanent. The reality is that nothing is safe from change. It is however how we face those changes that matters. Do we fight the changes or do we flow with them? Can we embrace change in such a way that it doesn't control us. I believe we can actually take the moment of change and make it our own. We can learn and grow along the way. Pain and suffering does make us stronger and more resilient. We do not need to seek suffering though. It will find us on it's own.
Change can be catalyst for adventure. But before we get too ahead of ourselves in that adventure we have to be aware of our current situation. We need to take stock of the resources we have and then we can better plan for that new journey into what we want our lives to be. As fortune would have it, the winter is a good time to do this. If we follow the examples of nature and try to sync our lives to the seasons we can find a rhythm. Following the seasons we can hunker down, think and conserve our energy like the deep hiding trout. This is the time to plan for the new year, rest when we can and decide what kind of lives we want to live.
Winter has a way of naturally reminding us that we can be happy with less. How the things that make us most happy aren't really things at all. The joy comes from family, friends and experiences. This year we are going to be forced even further to consider our relationships and values. We won't be pushed as hard to attend holiday gatherings. We won't have to overspend on our holiday gifts. Large family gatherings will (and should) happen online over "Zoom" and not in person. But this isn't going to a torturous or regretful winter season as a result of those limitations.
These limitations should be seen as a challenge to ourselves to reassess what matters most and could be a time for changing our habits of following consumer trends and saying "no" to those social expectations that we don't really enjoy anyhow.
Looking ahead to 2021
The new year will be the beginning of a new chapter of living my life.
I will continue to write a lot more here and in other publications to share my thoughts, ideas and experiences. My focus over the next few months is to find a path for myself and with that perhaps one that others can learn from and follow as well. I will share my thoughts and observations along the way. My intent is to use my blog as a guide of sorts and to also document my own journey. I am not writing here to "exhibit" my life, but rather to have a place to record my journey.
I will be sharing my own path and offering the skills and ideas that I have learned in meditation and mindfulness practice. I can share adaptations I have made to these practices to make them less austere and more approachable and more importantly, Practicable. Join me on this journey to adopt some new thinking and maybe discover a new way of looking at how you live your life. The choices along the way are your own. Choose what you want to try along the way and leave out those things that do not resonate with you. We can take this journey together.
I am optimistic about the new year. For now I hunker down for the winter and spend time with my thoughts. This is the rythum of living with the seasons and the world. Be where you are and meet life where it is. If the sky is stormy, seek shelter where you can and be with yourself and your thoughts. Enjoy the opportunity to reflect on your life and your choices. Make loose plans or even full commitments for what you will do when the spring months arrive, the streams rise and the fish come out of their own resting places.
Happy holidays to all and a Happy and hopeful New Year!
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a cuddly dog, and a very lucky cat. Dennis is an avid minimalist, wood craftsman, curious tinkerer and learner and most notably a deeply focused tenkara angler.