Yesterday—during the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere—I was still by the fireplace, overflowing with gratitude for the warmth and shelter in this sustained “winter,” for solitude, for health. I listened to the wind cut through the windows causing eerie whistling and deep-bellied growls. I watched the pines dance to the wind’s heavy-metal song. Then I went outside for a short run only to come back to the warmth of the fire after 30 minutes.

Creation does not know of our calendar year, our comfort-zones, our illnesses, or our fears. She continues to dance through her seasons of fertility, harvest, and stillness, taking only what she needs and giving all she can. She is a gift from God. We can see her teachings if we slow down.

When the surface of our land looks so still and fragile, nature keeps everything alive in her depths. And since you and I are part of it all, we contain this wisdom too. We just have to look a little more closely—under the surface.

Linking “M” Foothills to Sypes Canyon 3/7

Nature uses the season of winter to rest from the productivity of spring, summer, and autumn. We all know this but rarely practice it. In my lifetime we haven’t ever had to cease producing and consuming. We haven’t had to rest. There’s new growth and ideas and goods always sprouting up. We’ve been encouraged to keep up, keep going, do more. Our soil is overwhelmed and our roots have become entangled. Now, we are discouraged from even going out to non-essential spaces: a brutal halt from the over-activity we’re so accustomed to.

There’s so much to learn from this unprecedented stillness. Perhaps, we need this mandatory winter to restore our health, our energy, and our purpose. When our lives reunite again, what will you remember from this season: Death’s cold sting, or the fire you still chose to ignite? I hope you recall the warmth of our flames.

BYEP + MAG Ice Climbing Adventure 3/8

Whether you choose to go outside for fresh air or stay cozy indoors, allow the stillness to soak in. Question what is essential. Listen, observe, and act according to what you notice beneath the surface of all that is happening right now. What we choose to prepare in this inner-winter can set our lives, our communities, and our world up for a fruitful spring to come.

-E

What to say when the mountains call.

While many people in our country spend these frigid months watching the news or Netflix in Snuggies, most Bozemanites keep warm by skiing or snowboarding Bridger, Big Sky, or the backcountry. Unfortunately, many of us must spend five of seven days inside an office or a classroom—sans ridiculously comfortable blanket with arm holes—in order to afford gear, lift passes, and the medical expenses that accompany a mountain lifestyle. For the weekdays when the heavens anoint our peaks with fresh powder, and your closest view of the Ridge is the background photo on your laptop, try these excuses with your superiors.

“I strained my chi doing camel pose in yoga last night.”
It’s really important to listen when the universe tells you to take a day off. Some unbalanced chakras could really mess up the workspace feng shui.

“I’m taking a sick day.”
Although we try to discourage using the word “sick” interchangeably with cool, awesome, wonderful, etc., there’s finally an appropriate use for it—and it’s barely fibbing when used as an explanation for your absence in class or at work. The nipple-deep pow and the lack of lift lines are sick, indeed.

“I’m sick. Really.”
Chances are you may truly be afflicted by a virus, but what invigorates your system better than some fresh air and cold smoke? You’re less likely to spread your infection while bundled up head to toe in ski gear; however, you are more susceptible to a snotty beardsicle—and pneumonia. Use this one with caution.

“My dog has the flu.”
Most employers and professors will understand that you will need to be gone all day giving her medicine, homemade bone broth, and mixed-berry popsicles. Substitute “child” as necessary.

“My doctor recommends that I spend time outside to cure my winter blues.”
You will probably do yourself and everyone else a favor this season if you just go outside. Ask your doctor, a yoga teacher, or the cashier at the Co-op to write a prescription. “200 turns in fresh powder before lunch, three to five times a week to help prevent the transmission of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Repeat after one week. Refills: Unlimited.”

“Do you mind if I take a half-day today? I’d like to take advantage of the powder.”
Be real and remember that you are in Bozeman, after all. The powder clause and nature tax are real things here, and your supervisors likely want to get outside as much as you do. Odds are, you’ll be running into them on the slopes. If they still say no, give ’em a disappointed head-shake and mutter something about the robust middle-management job market in Miami.

–E

This article first appeared in Outside Bozeman Winter 2017-18.