It may seem odd to be writing about abundance in the depths of winter, but here we are on the last morning of January, and that is just what I am doing.
The word made its appearance centuries ago (the 1400s), coming to us through the good offices of Middle English and Old French, thence from the Latin abundāns, all the earlier forms meaning "full or overflowing". There are lovely synonyms for the noun form: affluence, bounty, fortune, plenty, plethora, profusion, prosperity, riches, wealth. For the adjective form, Roget offers us: 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, most often in summer and early autumn as we weed and reap and gather in, turn the earth for next year's garden, "put things by" and store the bounty of the season for future consumption. A few months ago, we scurried about like squirrels, hoarding the yieldings of our gardens for winter and the short dark days when a north wind howls in the eaves and snow lies deep across the landscape.
Winter's eye is as passionate as summer's, but it views the world with a different lens, looking for, not the graceful shapes of wildflowers and butterflies, but the arch of bare branches against the clouds, light falling across old rail fences and slanting deep blue shadows across the snow, dead leaves dancing in the wind, the thousand and one worlds resting easy within a glossy icicle down by the creek. Stooks and bales of hay rest in winter fields here and there, and they are cloaked in snow - 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 camera, a slender scrip of words.
The long white season is about harvest and abundance too, but the gathering is inward, the abundance quieter and dappled with questions. In January, I always seem to find myself questioning the shape of my journey - this slow progress 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.