Much of the Northern Rockies were whalloped by a series of snowstorms, along with record-setting low temperatures, from late September into early October. Missoual and far western Montana escaped these storms for the most part. The snow that fell vanished nearly as fast as it landed, but we did have several frosty mornings hovering in the low teens.
The abrupt shift to winter reminded me of the numen of this region. Numen is the spirit or the divine power presiding over a thing or place. I first heard the term from Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Powers in his book The Overstory, which I highly recommend.
The novel delves deeply into how individuals and societies have related to nature and the natural world, and illuminates how it has also related to us since time immemorial. I love how Powers wove a considerable amount of natural history into his work; I never realized until reading The Overstory that trees and humans share approximately 25% of the same D.N.A.!
Reflecting on the term numen, I am awed and inspired by the divine power presiding over our environment. Indeed. when you slow down and set the intention to be present for even a few minutes, wherever your feet are, techno-distractions and conjurings of the monkey mind tend to diminish in intensity and urgency.
Play with the concept of being completely present, and connecting with the numen of your place over the coming days. First, find a place where you feel comfortable and relaxed, then close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few minutes. Take a few seconds longer than usual for a full inhalation, hold it for a few seconds, then allow a bit more time to slowly exhale. If something from the “real world” prods and tugs for your attention, just note that it’s a thought, and if it’s truly important it’ll come back to you later.
Keep breathing deeply, allowing the essence or spirit of where you are to reveal itself. It may arrive as a sudden warm feeling of calm, trust, or reassurance that everything is and will turn out o.k. You may experience your breath feeling less labored, your heartbeat steady and less rapid, your pulse immanating at a more relaxed rate. Your shoulders and entire body may feel lighter and less burdened, as things previously preoccupying your thoughts loosen then shed their grip.
Be open to impressions, intuitive nudges, and inspired ideas that arise, too. You may very well come away with insight for how to approach or view something that’s been challenging lately, or the urge to drop something quickly and start something else from scratch!
We can consciously create the numen of our home and work environment to support us in being open to those insights.
My indoor workspace neighbors are a geranium, along with an eight-foot-tall ficus tree. Beyond, a large window overlooks the front yard, where I can observe a microcosm of the world go about daily life. Outside, two arbor vitae trees anchor the walkway to our home. These burled and burly sentinels protect us from blazing summer heat and howling winter winds while welcoming and visiting family and friends year round. They also provide shade and shelter for squirrels and birds, and occasional raccoons and deer.
When we connect with the numen of a place or thing, we come away feeling more inspired, energized, and hopeful, remembering that the fate of all depends upon the actions of many. We do our one small part today in each moment, knowing that that is enough. We keep striving, growing, loving and sharing as our collective roots deepen and intertwine, our gifts branch out toward light, sun, sky and all who may welcome them, weaving an enduring thread of life between earth’s generations.