It may seem a bit odd to be writing about abundance in January. The word made its appearance in the fourteenth century, coming to us through the good offices of Middle English and Old French, thence from the Latin abundāns, meaning full or overflowing. There are a number of synonyms for the adjective form including the aforementioned full and overflowing, lavish, ample, plentiful, copious, exuberant, rich, teeming, profuse, bountiful and liberal.
We use abundance or abundant to describe circumstances of fullness, ripeness and plenty, and most often in summer and early autumn as we weed and reap and gather in, turning the earth over for next year's garden, "putting things by" and storing the bounty of the season for future consumption. We scurried about like squirrels a few months ago, hoarding the yieldings of our gardens for winter, for the short dark days when the north wind howls in the eaves and snow lies deep across the landscape.
Winter's eye is as passionate as summer's visual apparatus, but it views the world in a different way, watching not for the shapes of wildflowers and butterflies, but for the arch of bare branches against the clouds, for light falling across old rail fences and slanting deep blue shadows across the snow, for dead leaves dancing in the wind, the thousand and one worlds resting easy within a glossy icicle down by the creek. Bales of hay rest in winter fields here and there, but they are cloaked in snow, and if not quite forlorn in their silent windswept places, they are certainly poignant. Each and every one cries out for attention, for patient eyes and recording lens, a slender scrip of words.
The long white season is about harvest and abundance too, but the harvesting is inward, the abundance quieter and dotted here and there with questions. In January's middling pages, I always seem to find myself questioning the shape of my journey - the slow progress through across the highlands with camera and notebook in hand, the sheaves of images captured or described and carefully archived, even the eyes with which this old hen is seeing the world.
I must remember that questions are an important part of the journey and a kind of harvesting too. There is not the slightest chance that I will ever capture a scrap of all the snowy wonder and grandeur around me, and lo, these days on the earth are numbered, but in the warm darkness of my uncertainty, I gather everything in and rejoice.