Winter is not an easy time, so many of us want it over as soon as possible. We want spring and the new birth and the life that it brings, but that is not the way to live and we know it. To live, always holding on to the spring yet to come, is to fail to fully experience what is present now. There is such richness in the dark cold of winter and we need to feel it and allow our eyes to adjust to the darkness. There is a beautiful wonder about winter that we would do well to embrace.
...I recently came across the following poem “Winter” by Robert Walsh...
The tree has bared itself to my view.
Its limbs and branches,
its hidden complexity,
So this is the frame work that holds the thick leaves.
So many leaves as to block the sun,
the lost sun,
the sunken sun.
Now only the spindly thin wood
casts its shadow on the earth.
Not for me this display of basics,
of skeletal function,
of inner structure and meaning.
Today I seek insulation,
I bundle, wrap, cover.
I think that winter has much to teach us about the spiritual life and I suspect that it begins with the trees. I love driving through the countryside, in the north of England in winter time, particularly if there is layer of snow on the ground. The thing I love the most are those seemingly lonely winter trees, stretching out from the cold pale ground.
There is something very beautiful about the trees in winter. These lifeless stick like sculptures stretching out from the ground are stripped right down to the bone. They look vulnerable and exposed, lonely and almost devoid of life but I know that they are not. I know that by the coming spring the land I am passing through will look completely different, it will be bursting with life. The mistake is to fail to see the life there now. Life that is silently waiting to once again express itself.
...Greta Crosby writes of winter...
"Winter" by Greta Crosby
Let us not wish away the winter.
It is a season in itself,
Not simply the way to spring.
When trees rest, growing no leaves, gathering no light,
They let in sky and trace themselves delicately against dawns and sunsets.
The clarity and brilliance of the winter sky delight.
The loom of fog softens edges, lulls the eyes and ears of the quiet,
Awakens by risk the unquiet.
A low dark sky can snow, emblem of individuality, liberality, and aggregate power.
Snow invites to contemplation and to sport.
Winter is a table set with ice and starlight.
Winter dark tends to warm light: fire and candle;
Winter cold to hugs and huddles; winter want to gifts and sharing;
Winter danger to visions, plans, and common endeavoring --
And the zest of narrow escapes; winter tedium to merrymaking.
Let us therefore praise winter,
Rich in beauty, challenge, and pregnant negativities.
I’m with Greta Crosby (and not just because we share the same surname) when she says “Let us not wish away the winter. It is a season itself, not simply the way to spring. When trees rest, growing no leaves, gathering no light,”
Yes let’s not wish it away clinging desperately to hope of the new spring, let’s instead appreciate what the barrenness has to offer.
It’s not just the trees in winter that can teach us lessons either, the snow has much to offer too. Mary Oliver wrote a beautiful poem about snow.
"Snow" by Mary Oliver
this morning and all day
continued, its white
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
and the heavens still hold
a million candles, nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain — not a single
answer has been found –
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.
In her poem Mary Oliver talks of a silence that comes with snow. I get that driving through the snow bound hills. When I do, I do not want to listen to music and I don’t want to speak and when I do, if I’m travelling with someone else, I do so in whispered tones.
Maybe this is the gift that winter brings, especially in these in-between days, after Christmas and before the coming of a new year, maybe its gift is the silence. How often in life do we spend time in silence, just listening to our breath or that of those around us and that of all life around us. How often do we spend time connecting to what is going on deep within us and the life we are surrounded by? Not much I guess. Most folk do not like silence. There is nothing to fear in the silence though. Silence is not merely absence of noise it is space that can be filled with possibility. Sometimes by walking silently out into in the silence of the snow, as Mary Oliver puts it, answers to the swirling questions may come.
I will end this little chip of a "blogspot" with these beautiful words by Kathleen McTigue. A “Winter Blessing”
“Winter Blessing” Kathleen Mctigue
The world catches our hearts through its light:
splintering dance of sun on water,
calm moonlight poured through branches,
candles lit on early winter evenings,
a splatter of stars on a clear night,
and the bright eyes of those we love.
But the brilliance never ends,
even when the light goes out.
Mystery shimmers and shines in the world
in even the darkest corners.
It’s there where the roots push life into soil and rock,
in small lives lived under every stone;
there is the silent pulse beneath the tree bark.
It’s in the depth of slow tides as they turn,
there in the sky on moonless nights
when muffling clouds block out the stars.
It’s there in the prison, the hospital,
by hospice bed,
there at the graveside, in the empty house –
something beating in the dark shelter
of our hearts -
the small shine of hope, the gilt edge of kindness.
May we be granted the gift of deeper sight
that we might see – with or without the light.