We are on the edge of winter in the Northwoods. All the trees have shed their leaves. We’ve had a little snow, and in shady areas it’s clinging to the moss like sweet icing. Every morning I break a thick inch of ice from my water buckets. It’s time to empty them. Time to stow the lawn chairs and bikes and birdbaths. Time to protect the canoe from the crushing weight of blown snow. Time to stack wood.

Overall, I am pleased to trade city conveniences for this direct contact with the cycle of the seasons. Some days, however, I am irritated with my task list. It feels like it never ends. Actually, it never does. I’ll get my fall chores done, but then I’ll be hauling wood and shoveling every day. In the spring, it’ll all reverse and there will be mowing, brush clearing, pumping water for the garden.

Inside the house, I also have the paper piles of modern living waiting for me. That never ends, either. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that if I just work a little harder, or a little faster, then either of those lists will go away and I’ll be free. Free to what? Maybe if I didn’t have all this stuff to take care of, I could sink into the eat-work-entertainment-sleep routine that everyone else seems to be enjoying. Watch more tv……would I like that better?

Dr. Charles Raison is a professor of psychiatry and human ecology at UW-Madison. He notes that there has been a noticeable increase in depression as we’ve become more civilized. He believes that the modern world is depressing for so many people because “…we live largely artificial lives, filled with plentiful but insipid substitutes for the types of experiences that bring more solid and long-lasting well-being.”*

The Teachers have told me that depression is the experience of being disconnected from our spiritual lives. Once we’re in that state, it’s hard to see a way out of it. Anything we can do to stay connected will be helpful. What experiences contribute to my well-being? Dedicated retreat time, participating in community, moving my body outdoors, admiring Nature.

It’s up to me to see and enjoy those opportunities during the brief life that I’ve been given.


*from an interview in The Sun magazine, February 2021, p. 4-13.