I've heard the "s" word being tossed around a lot this week. Well, actually two "s" words as the innocuous one usually is the precursor to the other. After what seemed like an all-too-short spring and summer, fall is rapidly turning to winter here in the Midwest...and with it, snowfall is expected. We're pretty lucky in Toledo...at least for now. Some places have over a foot of the white stuff to content with this morning.
On the outside I'm ready for the onslaught of another season of slush and mush and icy roads. My woolies are washed and waiting by the back door. There's a big bucket of rock salt at the ready for the sidewalks and entryways. I've cleared out all of my downspouts, even though I know one more visit up the ladder will be necessary to clean the last of the autumn leaves from the gutters. My cupboards are filled with the makings for chili and kitchari and warming soups. Pumpkin and caramel scented candles blaze on the fireplace, and I've even fired up the treadmill a few times to warm up my core temperature.
Yes, I'm prepared for Old Man Winter...but in mid-November, there's still a part of me that wonders, "Where did August and September go?"
Yet, for me, November has always been a transformational month. Twenty years ago, on November 9th, I realized that I had the courage to stand on my own two feet in a world that doesn't often respect women who know the power of refashioning themselves as a doorway rather than remaining a doormat. In 1996, on a rainy November night, I attended my first yoga class and in the process, allowed myself to enter that doorway into a new life that I continue to explore both on and off of my mat. In 2008, again on November 9th, I left Big Sur for a week-long adventure that brought be back to the Heartland so that I might finish what I had started here decades ago.
In the years since then, I've made some tough decisions, thought I was dying of a heart attack, embraced the idea of being in a relationship, then ultimately made the choice to walk away from old patterns of behavior. Each and every landmark took place in the thirty days in-between October and December. As you might imagine, I've learned to experience November not only as a month of thanksgiving, but also as a time of personal revolution.
This year it's my inner world that's shifting and changing. I've been working on a new book that demands a lot of focus and emotional energy. Intertwining stories of slavery and surviving a concentration camp has been overwhelming, so when I'm too weepy to write, I go to the park and hike the trails for an hour or so. Sometimes I hop on my bike and pedal until my heart races, exhausting the pent-up energy trapped in my chest. But now that colder weather is settling in for a long visit, I'm anxious that I'll soon become frozen as well...unable to escape all the emotions that rise up in the wake of the writing. I realize there's a little bit of both characters that has been soundly sleeping in my spirit. Now that I'm giving Sapphire and Keren an opportunity to speak, I can hear their voices echoing in my perspective of the past.
While ultimately writing this novel will be a freeing experience, right now it feels obscure and complicated. Still, my stalwart tenacity compels me to keep working, to keep moving forward. The other night, encouraged by an afternoon spent at the park, I wrote the epilogue so that I might know how the characters' lives evolve after the original story ends. It's bittersweet of course, but in knowing where these lovely ladies will be in 1950 gives me the courage to write them where they are in the novel -- one on April 8, 1865, the day before the battle of Appomattox that ended the Civil War and the other on April 10, 1945, the day before the liberation of Buchenwald.
It is a unique perspective to enter into the lives of two girls on the cusp of freedom. Both have lost a great deal, but they also have much to gain. Neither of them knows what will happen as the doors to emancipation open to a new life, but truly...do any of us who choose to travel along the path of the unknown?
So as another snowfall is imminent, I wonder, "What will this winter be like? Will it be a repeat of last year's brutal season? Or will it be something altogether different?"
I hope there will be time to visit with friends, sipping hot cocoa and playing board games. To build a snowman or two with my pals, Satish and Danta. To spend long hours beneath a warm blanket slowly making my way through the pile of novels that has been waiting for gardening season to end.
Perhaps the quiet months will also be a path to solitude and silence. And perhaps I can embody another "s" word as the inevitable storms arrive. Each snowflake can become a meditation, a focal point of staying present with whatever is happening in the moment...allowing what is sacred to come forth and celebrate the unseen transformation that takes place deep below the surface as wintertime returns once more.