I am struck again and again by the trees stripped of their leaves, their stark contrast to a radiant blue sky and low-hanging sun filtering through stalwart white pines. The barrenness of winter invigorates me. I feel as though I am stripped clean of old clothes and scrubbed down with soap and steaming hot water, then given license to take a long nap. The land must feel this, too, whether wrapped in deep snow or cleansed by driving rains.
We forget the power of seasonal patterns, the endless cycle of seeming death and rebirth. Whether we have imposed this pattern upon the natural world, or the natural world has imprinted it upon us, it remains a promise given to us by life. Life lives by dying. We do not have to fear change. We can fail and still thrive. We can be lost and still be found. We always return to our roots.
I think of the festivities that come around the time of the winter solstice, the religious narratives, the pagan rites, the gift giving, the celebration of light. With great excitement, we anticipate the arrival of spring, new dreams, romance, the smell of ripening earth. But I would argue that there is virtue in not rushing the next season, of luxuriating in the stillness of winter snow and ice.
I see burnt out grasses and wilted leaves, shriveled red berries and tightly knit buds on stiff-legged shrubs and trees, and I am given pause. I take deeper breaths and more time to exhale. I slow down in wonder at the simplicity, the quiet, the repose to which we all have access in the midst of our hurly burly lives.
Winter thrusts us into the present moment, perhaps more than any other season. We can pull our knees up to our chests, curl into a ball, and listen to the steady beat of our hearts. It is a not so much a retreat from life as it is obeying the archetypal call to retrieve our innocence, to discover once again who we are and what we value.
We can see time for what it is and not worry that it will all slip away. Something is eternal. We know this. Winter sheds anxiety as nothing more than so much dust and detritus. It summons us to believe, once again, in humility and humanity, in selflessness and grace. Only then are we capable of love and prepared for the call of spring.