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April 4, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

One Sweet World

Often, while other Winnipeggers are safely snuggled in their homes, avoiding winter, I will have piled on layers and layers of clothing and headed out into the cold air for a long walk along my favourite frozen river.

I describe going outside into bitter sub-zero temperatures as similar to diving into a cold lake. It can be difficult to make that jump, but once you’re in, provided you have dressed for outside (and not the inside of a car), you get used to it.

Ever since reading The Power of Now years ago, I have trained myself to accept the harsh cold and wind, by experiencing it fully with my body. I don’t need my mind to tell me the story of how cold it is. My body can feel it, and once the initial shock wears off, (about 60 seconds) I adjust and begin to feel warm.

The pace of my walking is usually determined by the outside temperature, and I am almost always burning up by the time I arrive back home. Occasionally, I get lost in the wonder of what is around me, and I fail to realize that I’m becoming cold, so I forget to turn around in time to stay toasty warm. I don’t mind. Acceptance is key here too, and accepting the discomfort makes it more than bearable.

The goal of these long solitary walks is simply to be with what is around me, and appreciate the wonder of all of nature despite the fact that I am only a few short kilometres away from our city’s downtown. It is hard not to feel grateful.

Sometimes, I am gifted with the opportunity to meet up with this winter’s deer. A Mum, and her two teenaged daughters. If it is unusually warm, I might spot a beaver or two taking a break from their hibernation to gnaw on sticks outside of their damn.

On other nights it is just me, the trees, the stars and crunchy snow beneath my feet.

I am walking on water.

And while I walk on water, the lyrics and melody of one of my favourite songs often plays itself on a loop in my head.

One sweet world,

around this star is spinning.

One sweet world.

And in her breath I’m swimming.

And here I will rest in peace.”

-Dave Matthews

Now, the temperature has risen and stayed just warm enough that the ice is rapidly receding and the river is on the rise. Within the next few days it will become a lake as it floods into the trees that line either side of it.

Then, as has happened every year since before we came, the waters will recede, the ground will dry up and what has been dormant all winter will wake up. All of the new life will turn what was a white winter-wonderland only weeks before into beautiful greens. I never stop being amazed by the whole process.

I have heard, though not seen, the first of the Scout Geese. The few that return from their warm winter vacation in Arizona to check out whether or not it is time for the rest of their flocks to come back home.

Each year, I wonder why they bother to come back at this time at all? The ground that is not still covered in snow is wet and muddy. Their nests will be under water for weeks to come.

Someone once suggested that they have to come back this early in the season because their visas have expired. This might explain why they’re always so cranky.

I also wonder how it is that they are able to let the rest of the flocks, far across the border know that it’s time to begin the long flight home? Phone, text, email? Somehow, they just know. Year after year, with Canada Goose perfect right timing, they know what to do.

This leaves me questioning how it is that we, with our so-called superior intellects lost our way. It’s as though we have collectively forgotten what feet, hearts, hands and minds are for. We have developed an ability to blind ourselves to the reality that this beautiful perfect Earth is the only home we have, and when we have stripped it of everything… there will be nothing.

My good friend Kerri Twigg of twigg.ca once wrote: “We are not likely to fight to save what we don’t appreciate.”

I guess that is a huge part of the problem. It might be the very problem itself.

The situation is not serious.

It is nothing less than critical so the time for baby-steps has long past. That said, I would beg of anyone reading this to make it a priority to stop, and be present with whatever nature you find around you. Even in the city, there are trees and birds, sun, sky and air. The concrete underneath your feet is nothing more than a thin covering for the real ground.

Maybe, if we all committed to this in each moment, we would begin to do the things that deep down we know we must so that this One Sweet World can thrive and support and nurture life as it always has, in such wonderful, perfect ways, forever and ever.

And on and on, into infinity.


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10 Comments

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  1. broadsideblog / Apr 4 2011 8:35 am

    Love this post…

    Is that a photo of a beaver!?? They’re rare to see….

    I have made this argument many times….that those who don’t spend time in/value/see/love nature can’t really give a damn about the natural world (as you clearly do, and I do) because it’s some abstraction that is not a beloved part of their life. I suspect Canadians (as I am) are pretty passionate about these things because so much of Canada IS wild or wilderness and gorgeous and we want to protect it.

    I LOVE your notion that the geese have expired visas….we saw a huge V of them last night (here in suburban NY) and were, as we are always as well, awed by their ability to fly so far and know how or where to go. I wish I could be a goose for even a day to understand how they live and see what they see.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Apr 4 2011 10:16 pm

      Thank you for stopping by Caitlin!
      That is in fact a photo of a beaver… which could be a blog post on it’s own, but I love to share so I will.
      I was crossing a the footbridge over the river one Sunday morning exactly 2 years ago as the river ice was beginning to break up, and I heard the sound of unusual tiny crashes in the ice. Something told me to stick around and watch. (I’m so grateful that I happened to have my camera in my purse.)
      After a few minutes, I saw Mr. Bitterbuns, (it’s a long story how I came to name him that) who had clearly moved downstream because his damn had flooded, dive under an ice flow and come up in the middle of it breaking through with his nose. I was blessed that day to watch him play for long enough that I finally got a shot. Not the best nature shot in the world, but precious to me.
      Though there are quite a few beavers around this city, (we see the evidence on the trees) it is true you don’t often see them, but I do know where and when to look. Beavers are incredibly wary of humans, (Possibly due to the fact that we nearly destroyed them all to make top hats? Canada’s first contribution to the world of fashion…).
      Sadly, I’m not sure how much we Canadians really do appreciate nature. It is amazing how few people I often see on the river when I walk, unless it is unusually warm outside. My neighbor once actually wanted me to complain to our landlord because there were Woodchucks in our yard! (Except that he didn’t know that they were Woodchucks… he just called them rodents.) I had of course already blown off an entire roll of film before he even saw them. Sigh. We need new eyes and ears.
      I may actually write about geese some day. They are truly fascinating. You can even argue with them as long as you keep your distance, but you can’t win. 🙂

  2. Patricia / Apr 4 2011 1:58 pm

    It has rained here for the last 55 days in a row, the flowers are doing their darnedest, tree blossoms are mostly on the ground….I love my rain walks and windy walks and getting all cozy inside and just stepping out.

    Goose email just made me laugh out loud and to remember the Beautiful Red Fox that was in the yard last week….oh the birds are such lovely noisy songsters.

    ….we need to appreciate and I appreciate your fine words of sharing – many thanks

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Apr 4 2011 10:23 pm

      And thank you Patricia,
      Funny, you find ways to enjoy your rainy days and I find ways to enjoy insane cold. So many I know truly believe that you just can’t be outside unless the weather is perfect. What a shame.
      Ooh, foxes. I’m almost jealous, and yet I have so much here. I hadn’t thought of it, but there are foxes all over the place here. I just haven’t seen one… yet.

  3. Emily Jane / Apr 4 2011 2:33 pm

    So good to see you back! I must admit, there is something magical about going for a walk in the middle of a winter’s night and being the only one for miles. I’ve only done it once (and not on a lake!) but I remember the silence on the street around me, the sparkle of fresh snow under a clear blue sky, and the sound of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit” in my headphones was just amazing. Making a mental note for next winter!

    Also, thank you for reminding me of acceptance of the here and now. There’s something I’ve been worrying about recently and you just reminded me that the best way to deal with things is to practice acceptance and be grateful for the present moment. 🙂

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Apr 4 2011 10:29 pm

      Well, thank you Emily,
      I’m so happy to have been able to be that reminder this time. We all need to do that for each other because we all forget. I hope your worries disappear and I truly hope you create more opportunities to enjoy all of the seasons, but especially winter because let’s face it. It is brutally long.

  4. Ollin / Apr 5 2011 1:06 pm

    YES! Thanks for reminding me to be present today.

    I can’t wait to read your non-fiction book. You do know that this is where your headed. Your skill becomes more refined with each post, and I can see you getting closer and closer to your voice and your message. It’s so much fun to see you on the journey.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Apr 5 2011 5:54 pm

      My dear Ollin,
      You have no idea how inspired I am right now to just write, and write, and write.
      I am now certain that it is the most important thing that I need to do right now and your words and support just affirm that I am on the right path.

  5. brittany220 / Apr 6 2011 10:57 am

    Hey Jenny, just wanted to let you know that I gave you the stylish blogger award!

    http://theshynessproject.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/stylish-blogger-award/

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Apr 6 2011 8:24 pm

      Thank you so much Brittany! I am both moved and honored! I’m so sorry that I haven’t visited your blog though I am truly inspired by your project. I promise to come by more often. I’m looking forward to watching you grow!

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