Back in the day, something described as “going to seed”, was something – usually a woman – that was old, neglected or useless, on the turn, dried out or past its sell-by date, but we can take that idiom back and revise it. We can transform it into a farming analogy to assist people preparing for another round of winter blues, cabin fever or those suffering the bleakness of depression or raw pain of heartache .
From Kristi Burnett of Burnett Farms, a local farmer, comes a tip that she received from a past mentor. If you’re in the depths of depression, imagine yourself as a seed frozen and buried in the earth. It’s dark and cold down there, but come spring, you’ll transform, emerging from the soil with enormous potential, growing into a towering oak or majestic hemlock, a being much larger than you were before. Now is the time to hunker down, meditate, study, and prepare to break ground and blossom in the spring. You may never be the same again, but you will be robust enough to scatter your knowledge like more, hardier wild seeds in a strong wind.
Winter is here. We’re uncertain as to how long she is staying this month, but it you’re stuck in your garret mourning lost love like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, living on a frame of home-produced honey and foraged mushrooms, its arrival comes way too early. If you have nobody to snuggle in your hibernation, now is the time to find someone.
Fortunately, up here we have some fine influencers keeping hope alive: gentlewomen of modern lore. Laura Silverman of The Outside Institute kindly reminds us that there still sparks of life in an apparently barren landscape. Laura will be leading a winter foraging walk on December 7th. Leigh Melander of Spillian shares an article in Fast Company on how Norwegians enjoy winter. Norwegians celebrate the things one can only do in winter and make sure they get outside every day: “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Norwegians also have a word, koselig, that means a sense of coziness. It’s like the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress.”
Winter in the Catskills is undoubtedly a spectacularly beautiful season, with the former vibrant landscape frozen in time, with seeds hovering atop dry stalks, ready to fly into the wind. If you have south facing windows, remove your curtains or blinds and let the low light flood in first thing in the morning and remain there all day. To watch the deer stalking methodically in single-file through a snow storm in single-digit temperatures is to be reminded exactly how weak a species we are without our creature comforts.
In the shadow of Overlook Mountain in Upstate New York, you’ll find one of the most apt monuments of the Catskills, The Opus 40 Sculpture Park. It’s apt because it was built by hand using Catskills bluestone, and in the Catskills it’s no exaggeration to say we have vast quantities of rock and stone, which is emblematic of the strength of character necessary to create the life of a resilient, full-time mountain-dweller. Living in the Catskills year-round is to be like Sisyphus, to roll the proverbial rock up the hill and attempt to keep it there. Opus 40 is the quintessential symbol of the challenging task of making a living in these ancient hills. Here, as the saying goes, there are “two stones for every dirt” – more loose stone than soil – and one local transplant even spent four years removing all the stones from his land so that he could start a farm fit to be planted.
Assembled by hand over 37 years by local sculptor Harvey Fite, the park rises out of the pit of an abandoned quarry like it’s a relic that’s been delicately unearthed by the brush of a giant archeologist. What’s extraordinary is that there were no plans or drawings made before the work began. Fite literally just began and continued until his death 37 years later, and all his tools, winches and pulleys remain to this day in the Quarryman’s Museum in a red barn on the property. It’s named Opus 40 because he predicted that it would take 40 years to complete, but he met an untimely demise three years shy of his goal in an accidental fall in the park.