Big Snow – Big Lesson

Zürich just had the heaviest snowfall since 2006; such crazy levels, that it completely stopped the city trams and buses. Roads and paths that are usually cleared, as if by magic by an amazingly organized and efficient team of snow ploughs, were impossible to drive on unless you are lucky enough to drive a winter-proofed 4×4. Walking on the pavements was a treacherous exercise to say the least. I fell over twice walking my dog, not badly but in true slap-stick-laugh-out-loud style. Some of the other people I saw falling fell really hard and, I’m sure, painfully and having to watch and not being able to rush (or slip and slide at least) to help them due to social distancing made me feel really awkward.

I have never experienced such complete disruption in my 18 years living here!

I did not have a great start to 2021. My challenges in the first week of the year seemed to fall like this snow; completely out of the blue and all at once. They were so many and so complex that I cancelled the start of my working year halfway through the first week and took the second half of the week off. As a coach and coaching supervisor, I know I made the right, professional choice. I have a duty of care to be fully present with my clients and I couldn’t, in all honesty, say that this was possible. Those who read my last blog, know that I lost my dear friend and office partner, Charles and I was really struggling to clear my mind each time I walked into my coaching space.

Taking a time-out was the right thing to do for many reasons, but it also meant that my to-do list was even more extreme than ever and here I was, well and truly snowed in with avalanche warnings in every sense.

I moved what I could rearrange at short notice, cancelled other appointments and felt my stress levels gradually rising.

As serendipity would have it, I had a virtual appointment with my supervisor and, as I sat at my desk overlooking the garden, the big cherry tree in front of my window dumped such a huge weight of snow that the ‘thwump’ made me jump. It was like being jolted out of a dream and the tree became my teacher for the session.

A tree knows just how much snow it’s branches can take. The snow that is too much or too heavy is dropped and creates a protective blanket against the frost. When snow is too heavy on weak or dead tree parts, the tree lets that part go. The decomposition of these ‘lost’ parts of the tree return nutrients to the soil that surrounds it.

Birds are attracted to the damaged or vulnerable parts of the tree and offer their own special gifts in return. A tree knows how to be with disruption because a tree lives with the seasons.

I started the year by trying to live against winter wisdom (winter being my personally dreaded season) and it’s been a really hard slog. There is just so much to do and this spring-like rushing and action feels like trying to push up immature and delicate buds too quickly into minus temperatures. Days are short and dark, the cold is tiring, paths are hard to walk on and the usual meeting of friends is even more COVID challenging than in warmer months. This sudden debilitating dumping of snow hit so frustratingly hard against my spring-time need to be ‘doing’ that I was building my own snow drift and then trying to run through it.

This week’s winter snow disruption told me to, “Stop. Know the limits of your branches. Grow and protect your energy reserves and know where you want to concentrate your energy direction in spring, lean into this season to prepare for the next.”

A tree may look still and almost dead in winter, but there’s a lot going on under the surface.

Thank goodness for the wisdom in supervision and seasons. By the afternoon of the ‘Big Snow’ I was outside playing with the dog and having a whale of a time, followed by snuggling up with him and a cup of tea looking out with wonder at the most beautiful weather phenomenon I have seen in a very long time. It has been a very long time since I just stopped and wondered with child-like curiosity and the magic of snow and the transformation it brings to everything.

And guess what…

As I sat there all warm and cozy, I leaned into winter’s lesson of stopping, being and just enjoying the magic of what is. Still feeling the cold glow on my cheeks and without any conscious ‘doing’, I settled into what I want, what’s most important, what I most need and who I am at the core of all that. I have a new clarity of who I am, how I bring that full, authentic ‘me’ energy into my coaching, supervision and wider life and I know with certainty where I’m headed.

What season are you really living in this January?

The winter gifted me a little poem as I sat curled up, watching the continuous snow fall and fascinated by the lessons of The Big Snow and my cherry tree. I leave this gift for you now to read and ponder over.   Enjoy.

My Teacher; The Tree

Dearest students gather near
I, the tree, am your teacher,
For today’s ancient wisdom
From my mentor; The Seasons
Know your branches, know their breadth
As snow falls, hold only yours,
Let the rest be your blanket;
Warm against the biting frost.

Listen carefully and be
Bring attention back to me
Pay the wind for renaissance,
With dead wood not promises.

Learn to open senses wide,
Yet hold each fresh bud lightly.
New shoots need winter’s wisdom,
As they burst into the world.

Close your books and join with me;
Dance and celebrate the sun!
Songs of laughter, joy and play,
Integrate your singing hearts.

 Satisfy yourself and share,
Abundantly with the class.
Grateful group, connect your roots,
Support each other’s harvest.

Study the beauty in death.
Know when to let go and prune.
Learn, review, incorporate,
Bring closure to the lesson.

The bell calls us to break-time,
Drawing our time to a close.
Take the homework, be prepared
To start afresh tomorrow.


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