"At this juncture in our history, the world is both dying painfully of a thousand deep and freely bleeding wounds and is as vibrant and beautiful as she ever was. Well-kept mysteries and rituals to the constantly reborn Adonis, Osiris, or Persephone, used to remind us that a being or a place could be more than one thing at once, could in fact consistently be both alive and dead..." (Ben Kessler, Rivers of Wind, p. 59)
Drawing of Persephone by Ati Forberg, found in "Persephone: Bringer of Spring" by Sarah F. Tomaino
Connecting Somatically with the Freeze-Thaw Cycle and Vernal Risk
Here in South Vermont, Wantastegok, the temperatures are wavering between 20 degree days and 60 degree days. I guess this is a common feature of life in this region, and it existed where I lived before, too. But here, I'm more aware of how important this cycle is for tapping maple syrup (the pressure created by the temperature changes is absolutely crucial for the process), and also intrigued by the forthcoming "mud season." Simple things like seeing Wintergreen again under the melted snow bring me a lot of joy (yay fresh wintergreen tea!).
With repeated thaws, we approach Spring, which in this area also brings about "vernal pools," small temporary wetlands created by "seasonal precipitation and runoff [that] collects in small basins." Lots of neat critters breed there, especially frogs! If the pools dry up before the froglets are old enough, they might die, which is why there is some benefit to breeding as early in spring as possible.
If warm weather persists for a stretch, spring plants may start to send out buds, shoots, or even flowers that could get damaged in the next freeze cycle. This is the paradox I think of when I say "Vernal Risk:" what are the risks of expanding quickly into spring energy, while winter still wants to be here too? And what are the risks of not expanding/getting the energy moving soon enough?
Somatic and Reflective Prompts:
Explore what it's like to contract your body as much as possible (making yourself smaller, denser, bringing your limbs and head as close into your core as possible) and feel a sense of frozen-ness.
And then what is it like to expand from the freeze--which body part would like to unfurl, or thaw, first? How quickly? Is the impetus to unfurl/thaw coming from within, or from an external stimuli (real, like Sun or Warmth, or imagined)? How much of you would like to expand before you're ready to dip back into contraction?
What parts of you are more familiar or comfortable with a feeling of contraction or stillness? How about expansion?
What is it like to move fluidly between these states--is there any place of discomfort that resists one of the directions? What are the "risks," maybe metaphorically, or literally, for you, of expanding? What are the risks of not expanding? What rhythm of freezing and thawing feels good to you, in this moment?
In this article, I reflect on and describe a basic movement ritual that helps me connect to inter-being-ness and care. For me, this guided progression is a grounded way to begin eco-somatic dance improvisation in a spirit of tenderness. Care is connected, too, to grieving, which I describe in the final section of "Nature and the Nervous System."
This song connects me with grief for lost species. "I fear sometimes that it will be from only a very small part, a breath, a feather, a stone, that the world will continue to be sung," Ben Kessler says in Rivers of Wind. I believe that allowing ourselves to feel the pain in a song like this re-connects us to the world. "When we allow the world's pain to flow in, it rearranges our internal structures. Then the outflow releases our gifts of response into the world," as Joanna Macy says.
I am offering somatic support sessions via video chat at my in-training rate of $35 per hour-long session. Based on your needs, desires, and learning styles, sessions can be tailored to focus on any number of tools, including movement re-patterning, guided somatic self-touch, mindfulness, rehabilitation, tuning into the wisdom of sensation, permitting bound up energy to move and cycle through/out of the body (gentle/slow trauma resolution), connecting to your environment/landscape, strategies for embodied resilience, dream dancing, and other possibilities. If you are interested in my previous work as a hypnotherapist, I offer a very limited number of sessions at a sliding rate of $45-90.
Feel to reach out with any questions to see if somatic sessions would be supportive for you at this time.