The Silent Wisdom of Winter

At the intersection of Wendover Ave. and Hill St., there is a large oak tree with a branch that extends across all three lanes of Wendover westbound. Almost at the end of this branch, and directly over the center lane of traffic, is a bird’s nest. “What in the world were they thinking?” I asked myself as I sped underneath it. I haven’t been able to get that image out of my head. I keep wondering if putting a nest there was profoundly stupid or a supreme act of faith?

No, I don’t think birds are stupid. I think they knew exactly what they were doing. Maybe any fall from a nest is potentially fatal no matter where the location. What with cats and snakes and just the force of the fall itself, learning to fly is a life and death matter, so why not go where the view is good? These rebel birds, I’ve decided are like rock climbers, living in the thrill of risking it all.

Naturally this made me think about my own life. How often am I willing to go out on a limb like that? In what ways in my life do I jump directly into something, knowing that I could land on my face in speeding traffic? It’s pretty rare these days, that’s for sure. So what is it that stops me? Fear of disappointing someone or of looking stupid? Fear of losing everything I’ve worked to create? In the face of death, which is the only thing that is truly inevitable, are these fears worth missing even one moment of the fantastic flight I could be having?

In Chinese Medicine, winter is associated with the kidneys. The kidney energy is the heavenly legacy we are born with, our genetics, who we are at the core. And fittingly, the emotion associated with Kidney is fear. Some call it fear of death, but I think it’s more about a fear of not living. Fear that we won’t be able to express who we are, that we won’t even discover who we are in the limited time we’ve been given.

But that is where the irony lies. There is nothing to know. There is no you to express. There is just life, streaming in and out of you and me and the bird in the nest and the kid down the street who you never really liked. It’s all the same stuff in different packaging. Each unique perspective contributing elegantly to the whole. Most of the time we have no idea the impact we make, so why don’t we set our intentions and quit worrying about it?

Self-knowledge is actually a misnomer. Finding yourself is more like coming home than going on a quest. Trees know that in order to grow and explore each spring, they have to pull their energy back into the ground during winter. It makes them stronger. Likewise, meditation, prayer, yoga, acupuncture or even music can be used to quiet the mind, to reconnect with that ancestral energy that has infused us with momentum since conception. If only we can manage to get our thoughts, judgments and obsessions out of the way, even for a few minutes each day, we will become settled in the wisdom that successful flight is inevitable.