Spiritual Practices for the Homebound during a Long, Hard Winter

One of the essentials for a healthy soul is regular contact with nature. When a series of polar vortices assaults a household living with Huntington’s Disease, this calls for a little creativity. It’s a long time since my beloved has been able to traipse around the marshes and woodlands as she did for so many decades, attending to the birds and things that swim, so we had a head start on this problem. 

We read nature books aloud. Geological histories, topographical studies, the kind of stuff that sends teenagers screaming into the parking lots.

By “read nature books” I do not merely refer to the speaking of words. When the authors launch into a list of species — any kind of species: trees, moss,flowers, mammals, fish, whatever — we pull out our Field Guide and look at these little creatures in vivid color photographs. Trees are a particular passion for me, so for those sections (quite abundant in Vermont, and doing something interesting every week of the year), other books might be in order. Pruning guides, for instance, have become quite exciting during this winter of ice and snow, as we compare what happened in previous natural disasters with what we are doing to cope with this one. Wildflowers have their own large, separate book, full of glorious and detailed photos, allowing us to ask whether we have seen any examples in our yard or neighborhood, which we then compare to the science in the field guide and the nature text. Lots of stuff like this is also explored on the local weather broadcast we prefer. That meteorologist gets out in all kinds of circumstances to look at all kinds of details, and sometimes these are part of what we talk about at the close of a particular paragraph.

This is one of our favorite shared experiences. And my beloved, who was a veterinarian technician during her able-bodied years, has laboriously shaped her longest and most passionate vocal offerings to tell me stories about the highlights of her years engaging nature in its own realm.


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