Appreciating gift of winter mornings

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 20, 2016

There is something amazingly beautiful about a cold January morning. The sky is a hazy gray, slowly burning toward the clear blue that only comes around in winter.

High in the trees, the leaves that remain on the oaks are dancing. It is more like a shimmy as they seem to bounce rather than blow. In the distance, I hear the sound of duck wings splashing the water when they take flight.

As I stand at my back door taking in the day, I hear a plop and then click, click, click as my cat jumps from his window perch and tracks down the hall. The coffee cup in my hand is warm and the slippers on my feet are soft.

My breath fogs the glass as I lean forward to see what caught my deaf bulldog’s attention and started her barking. I smile as she waddles off in the direction of whatever imagined trespasser summoned her from sleep, only to settle for a nap in the sun when she finds nothing to fear.

I love mornings like this one when there is a hint of silver frost on the grass by the water and a floating mist rising from the lake. It is in these quiet moments I feel a deep connection to life, to the energy that moves and breathes in all of creation.

For some reason, the cold and the stillness seem to pull me closer to that divine spark and I sense it more deeply than at any other time of year. Perhaps, it is because there is a restfulness to the winter season, nature granting the world permission to stop for a while and simply let things be.

A squirrel is chattering a morning hello to the cat that sits under the limb it occupies. The cat answers back with a leap that takes it halfway up the trunk, which sends the squirrel racing higher up the tree.

I am looking out at the winter landscape without the aid of my glasses, which gives it a softer look. The Spanish moss swaying in the trees makes shadows on the ground, and the brown carpet of leaves covers the sandy spots in the yard. I squeeze my eyes tightly trying to bring the scene into focus, and the hard edges melt into each other. The colors blend; grays and greens and browns run together.

Cracking the sliding door, I feel the frigid air hit my face. It is at once shocking and energizing. My lungs tingle and my eyes water as I take a big breath. The rush of cold reminds me that I am alive, blessed to feel these sensations.

The other day I read a comment about the difference between gratitude and appreciation. It said something along the lines of gratitude is an emotion that arises because of some action. Perhaps something we have done or not done for which we feel a sense of gratefulness.

Appreciation, on the other hand, comes when we realize that grace delivered a gift to our lives. Appreciating is an acknowledgement that we did nothing to cause it to happen nor did we pay a penny for it. We are simply the beneficiaries of what the flow of life has given to us.

Today, this cold, clear January morning is a gift grace handed me with a smile. The day invites me to open it slowly, to savor each moment, to pause and appreciate. To be fully present right here, right now.

The cat pitter-patters up and meows a request for a refill of his food bowl. I close the door, as I turn to rub his head.

“Cat, it’s a good day,” I say, laughing. “It’s a chance for me to rejoice as I sip hot coffee and for you to munch fishy-smelling food.”

He purrs in agreement and together we move into this amazingly beautiful day.

Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.