Wintery weather landed (and has stayed) in Montana way back in early November, and we haven’t had continuous bare ground in town for nearly three months now.
Since the holidays we’ve experienced gray, overcast conditions, persistent freeze-thaw cycles, and occasional light snow covering the crunchy consolidating layer underneath. Whenever the sun peeks out, Erik and I literally run outside to soak up whatever Vitamin D is available, startling our sleepy cat Ren in the process.
Overall, life has been flowing at a slower, more relaxed pace following the busy holiday season, but things became very exciting at home a while back.
One evening last week, I heard booming percussion style fireworks being launched somewhere nearby. Then the wind increased rapidly to a strong and steady speed. I shrugged that off, too, thinking a cold front accompanied by light snow had arrived earlier than forecasted.
The first sound was not completely unusual, as fireworks lovers in town tend to launch them around July Fourth, New Year’s, and at random times. The second sound was also not concerning, as Montana can certainly be a windy place.
Several minutes later, I responded to loud knocking at our door. Someone from the fire department let me know a nearby water main had burst, ushering a torrent of foot deep water flowing down the street, swiftly rising up over sidewalks and creating lagoons in people’s front yards.
From our front door, it looked like Walt Disney had gotten a hold of Old Faithful, with troubling consequences.
There was no time to overthink-I put on more outdoor clothes, then waded through four inches of water to my car on a 34 degree night, and quickly drove it to another block where the elevation was slightly higher.
I alerted Erik to what was happening, and let him know that our kitty, Ren, had been outside prowling when the incident happened.
At first, she was nowhere to be seen. I put on a headlamp and looked up through the canopy of the front yard arbor vitae trees, places she traditionally seeks out when scared or startled. Instead, Ren was meowing loudly in the backyard, the gushing of a 30-foot geyser nearby drowning out her cries.
The water main burst was a strangely beautiful sight, illuminated by flickering flares and emergency vehicle lights as teams of responders worked to shut things off, and neighbors and passersby gathered to watch.
It was entrancing to see a solid blanket of snow in the foreground, alongside rainbow tinted walls of water racing down the street. Within half an hour, the emergency response crew had turned off the water, with the flood rapidly subsiding afterwards.
It was surprisingly easy to fall asleep that night-it felt like considerable pent-up energy from the holidays and the first month of the new year had been released when the water main burst.
During this season, I’m drawn to the origins and celebrations of the Winter Solstice and the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Water Rabbit, which began on Sunday January 22. They bookend the New Year of the rather precise Julian calendar, yet these events are determined by solar and lunar calendars respectively.
For me, this trio of “new years” allows more space and freedom to ponder and realize what I’d like to change or envision in my life, rather than making one off New Year’s resolutions which tend to fizzle out like short-lived fireworks.
The water main break just before the Lunar New Year got me thinking further about the role natural forces and processes play in our lives and on the planet, and how I could live in greater harmony with them.
Sometimes forces and processes proceed gradually and incrementally, like the angle and length of sunlight in higher latitudes the first weeks after the winter solstice. On the other side of the spectrum, changes and developments moving at breakneck speed can really test our patience and resolve.
Yet the water main burst reminded me most things that happen aren’t personal, but universal. We all take turns. Over our lifetimes, we experience similar events along with the gamut of human emotions and feelings. It’s part of the process of life itself, always dynamic, with change the only constant.
When events happen rapidly, all we can really do is respond in real time, without agonizing or overthinking.
Observe how ducks can have a tussle in the water over something unseen or unobservable to us. Soon afterwards, they’re hanging out in the same spot, as if nothing ever happened. Whatever “it” was is over. They’ve moved on, they’re not dwelling over things, they’re fully present again.
In the still young year of 2023, opportunities and possibilities are presenting themselves, elbowing out the stagnation and constriction many have experienced these past several years.
Greater possibilities and solutions are timeless gifts we receive from consistently connecting with the natural world. Nature is a sage teacher, helping us discern what’s really important in our lives, providing pathways to experience greater peace, health, and whatever else we envision for ourselves and others.
When you more clearly understand who you are, why you are here and what you stand for, the more illuminated and joyful will be the path you will travel.
In 2023 I invite you to join me in declaring out with the old ways of doing things and being in the world that no longer work or serve their purpose, and in with the ways that do!