The wintertime is coming, the windows are filled with frost…Bob Dylan
Batten the hatches, citybillies, and hunker down. It’s time for winter and, here in winter, it’s all about conserving energy and staying alive. The Wheel has spoken and now the Wheel is silent. Set in motion with the spring flowers, the Wheel is slowing to a crawl.
And that’s all right.
It’s the season of dormancy, the season of hibernation.
The Earth Renewal Moon, then the Rest and Cleansing Moon, followed by the Big Winds Moon…it’s the season of Waboose the White Buffalo, the Spirit Keeper of the dark, the guardian of the freeze, the defender of the thaw.
His position on the Medicine Wheel? If it was a clock of standardized time, then he would take his throne at true north…the midnight.
And his native habitat? The open field, the long prairie, the great plains…where you measure distance in days, not miles. Children born under this moon are patient and prudent, slaves to their seasonal totems.
Like the birch…the tree whose roots are used to make drinks, whose sap is used to make medicine, whose bark is used to make paper…the children of Waboose are giving, productive and imaginative. Like the quartz, they have an inner clock. Like the snow goose, they are a bit of a nitpicker.
And this is their season and this is their place. Season of the home, season of the hearth.
It’s also the season of the flu and, so far, it’s a doozy.
Currently, a certain strain of flu is taking on fierce and aggressive characteristics. This happens, sometimes, with living things.
Health officials have identified this species of influenza as the H3N2 strain, the very same strain that devastated the world over 40 years ago, when it was known as the Hong Kong Flu.
And it’s back in full force now. The H3N2 flu is currently sweeping across Turtle Island. As of this writing, this species of flu has spread to 80% of the country. Over 2,000 people have been hospitalized. Twenty confirmed deaths.
Time to stay away from people. Time for selective society. Time to nest.
Time to enjoy the comforts of home. Time to catch the colors and fruits of the interior world, my own urban igloo.
One minor problem.
During the busy tree-hunting season, well, I’ve kind of let the cabin go to seed.
I haven’t done a good cleaning since the moons of Wabun the Golden Eagle and, I have to admit, it’s starting to show.
I don’t regret it. While most people were wasting away the idle hours cleaning and organizing, I was out hunting and catching the ephemeral monuments of the natural world…some of the most fleeting objects known to modern man…magnolia flowers, tulip poplar flowers, wild asparagus, birdberries, acorns and ice.
While most people were vacuuming their wall-to-wall carpets or dusting off their precious knickknacks, I was hunting down champion ginkgo, champion beech, champion Chinese scholar tree…and I’ve managed to catch the hawthorn, the franklinia, the willows, a moon tree, osage oranges from the Lewis and Clark adventure, just to name a few.
But it’s winter now…season of the home, season of the hearth…and I’m all about living seasonally.
It’s time to clean, time to get ahead of the clutter or, as we who were born under the Long Snow Moon say, time to spruce up.
I decided to tackle the bedroom first.
This shouldn’t be so bad. This wouldn’t be my most dangerous adventure. After all, I’m the man who went head-first into the Cave of Kelpius and survived to tell the tale.
A little laundry isn’t going to scare me.
Plus, I was able to hunt down some of my favorite apparel…my nice shirt that I wore to the family Thanksgiving dinner and my pair of lucky shorts, last seen during the Harvest Moon.
Next up, I went into the kitchen, where things had gotten a little wild.
Here, in a kitchen sink gone awry, I was still able to sharpen my identification skills.
This is either the remains of some scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich, two things commonly found in the interior urban kitchenscape…
…plus I found the season-ending serving of my big batch of famous tomato-kale spaghetti sauce, last seen at the very end of a long New Year’s Eve weekend.
Not a problem. Dirty dishes? I’m not afraid. I’ve walked those mean streets out there all alone. I’ve hunted trees all over this city. I’ve hacked my way through the weedy bamboo, hunted down the ailanthus and I’ve gone head to head against catalpa.
Dirty dishes? Easy breezy.
I just rolled up my sleeves, cranked up my collection of folk rock and got to work. A little hot water, a brand new sponge, a little elbow grease and, in no time at all, the dishes were clean, drying on the rack, spic and span.
And why stop there?
I went down into the basement and I dug out my mop.
Look, ma, I’m mopping.
The season of the mop…this may come as a surprise but most citybillies love to mop.
There’s nothing like mopping to set the imagination asea.
With a good, sturdy mop in hand, we can just imagine what it was like swabbing the decks of some old battered hull cruising across the rocky oceans…life on the open seas…and, with every swing of the mop, we can hear the echoes of that mutinous American author Herman Melville…when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor…I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote…I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.
Melville. Now there was a citybilly who took advantage of both the exterior and the interior world.
And so, with Melville on my mind and with Gordon Lightfoot in my ears, I kept at it…sprucing up the place and clearing out the cobwebs.
I even took the time to take tea.
THE WINTER SIDE OF LIFE
I suppose every season has its beverage.
For spring, it’s all water and rain. In summer, it’s juice and nectar. In fall? It’s cider.
And in winter? It’s tea.
It’s actually the perfect time to go a-tea-ing…to wander from friend to friend…calling out the neighbors…quick, warm stops and quick, warm conversations, on the way home from running errands in the dark.
Catching up on catching up.
So, in an age-old winter tradition, I invited myself over to farmer Gina’s apartment.
We drank deep cups of hot tea, seasoned with local honey, and when we’d had enough caffeine, we just drank cups of honey and hot water.
We flipped through her seed catalogs and I listened to her big plans for the upcoming farm. She’s got her spring crop all lined up. She’s figured out a new way to grow basil but she wouldn’t tell me what is was, it was so revolutionary and yet so simple, and it was going to make a fortune.
Walking home, I passed a few trees, of course. I noticed some maple buds and some callery pear buds. And the cherry tree bark? I could swear it’s bloating, swelling up for the winter. Maybe, tomorrow, if I have time, I’d snap a photo or two. I wasn’t going to miss anything.
Tree-hunting? It is a little silly, if you think about it.
They’re not going anywhere.
And neither am I.
It was time to settle down and catch the homestead. I was aground at last.
I dug right in…watching the local news, going through the mail, tidying up the clutter, tackling the home repairs that went neglected throughout the long growing season…
…season of the stew.
Without the hectic schedule of a successful tree-hunter, my waking days took on a routine.
Daylight was for work and not much else. I’d read a few articles to keep up with current global events, send a funny email or two to a good friend, check the movie schedule.
The nighttime? That included the commute, then maybe a lazy jaunt to the local deli for some snacks or a climb down to the basement to do a load of laundry or a quick trip to the curb to take out the trash.
By evening, I’d keep the TV on in the background and read some classic nineteenth century adventure novel…maybe Treasure Island or The Count of Monte Cristo…or I’d pass the time listening to modern versions of Appalachian murder ballads.
I took to napping.
Sure, this wasn’t the Thoreau model…but who am I? Who am I to front only the essentials? Who am I to drive life into a corner?
I’m just a homebody and this, after all, is winter.
The season of the shutter.
Then things got a little worse, a little lazier. The naps got longer and, instead of an elaborate stew, I’d be okay with a few slices of white bread and some local canned soup.
Caught up on sleep, my nights got longer and longer…and I started catching up on the cable miniseries…maybe some Game of Thrones or some Homeland…spoiler alert…you got to watch every episode to figure it all out.
Slowly, the nest got bigger and bigger.
The cocoon tightened.
The season of the snuggie.
And then, one evening, on my way to the couch to catch the start of Jeopardy, I noticed something growing out of the cushions of my couch.
I’ve heard of this happening before.
This is moss.
This is trouble. This doesn’t belong here.
Or maybe…maybe it does, now.
CASTING OFF THE WINTER SPELL
No. It can’t be. Say it ain’t so, Jon Spruce. I’d become stagnant and sleepy. I’d become accustomed to routine, living life by rote, charmed by quietude to a listless schedule of boring days and contented nights.
I’d been caught napping.
Waboose, you old bull. Message received.
Dump that tea down the drain and brew me up a big pot of black coffee.
Dump that tea down the drain and brew me up a big pot of black coffee.
Winter or not, it was time to shake off these cobwebs and shave off the beard. No more sitting around. No more snuggie. Time to take off.
Time to return this patch of moss to where it belongs…not the cushions of my couch but out there…in the January wilds…
…down the muddy trails and through the hanging fog…to hunt down the winter totems…the evergreens, the hollies, the birch, the quartz, the moss and more of the spruce.
The ducks are flown but me? Jon Spruce? I’m headed out…I’m heading in…back in the game, back to nature.
Just like a rolling stone.
To be continued...The Season of the Moss.