Caring for Mind, Body & Spirit in Winter

“What’s a body to do in the cold?” That’s the question that writer Genevieve Villamizar asks this month. Because there’s a “Colorado native” sticker on my car’s bumper, I’ve known the answer for years.

As a child, I always asked for the same gift for my November birthday. “Make it snow so I can ski!”

This year, Ullr didn’t quite deliver by my deadline. But now, Sopris is mantled in silver, and I know just where to go to get my mind, body and spirit fed.

I could jump on RFTA and travel 31 miles up the valley. Considering all that I learned last year, Aspen is a pretty good place to start. Last year, my ski-lift conversations included a stimulating talk with an atmospheric researcher from Australia, a discussion about Japanese politics and a virtual tour of Latin America. After watching the moves of several skiers wearing metallic capes that swung in time with their slope-side samba moves, curiosity got the better of me. I wedged myself into a six-pack with the caped crusaders and asked about their costumes. “It’s Carnaval, of course!” they told me. Rio de Janeiro’s festival, rooted in Portuguese history and Catholic culture, dates back to 1723, and each samba school’s dancers tell a story… But it’s a little different in every Spanish-speaking country…

But for spiritual sustenance, any chairlift will suffice! I have always loved to sit in silence, my body warm and glowing from its dance down the slopes. I forget about my to-do list. Forget about finances, politics, the folly of mankind. All that exists is this moment, in all its fleeting perfection. The wind, the tracks of snowshoe rabbits, the shadows of spruce. They paint the snow with patterns that could have been made with a Japanese shodo brush. What does this kana character say? Perhaps it signifies mindfulness. Perhaps it’s a haiku written by Matsuo Basho, Japan’s famous Edo-period poet. Maybe it’s this one:

Winter solitude –
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.

I think it’s Genevieve, rather than Matsuo, who knows winter best. Winter’s world is not one color. Genevieve sees “pearlescent apricot”. My painter’s eye traces skies that grade from cerulean up to cobalt blue. The snow diffracts with sparks of gold, alizarin red, quinacridone violet and sap green.

Yes, Aspen is lovely, but you don’t have to go there to pursue the “Aspen idea”.

It’s true, Genevieve. In this valley and this season, you don’t even need a ski pass to nurture the mind, body and spirit. All you have to do is put on your puffy, walk outside, observe intently and praise creation.