It is 2020, a year already challenging our vision of ourselves, the nation and the world. It is highly likely the events of history will overtake and crowd our vision compromising our sense of nationhood, self and others. As a seasonal response then, Winter may be helpful as a time for letting go settling into our experience and that to which nature calls us; namely, rest and renewal.

The bright but limited sunlight in very southern sunsets remind me we are in the slow season. I walk more slowly, looking about me. Scores of birds make their winter havens where I live. I mark time by observing and being present to the seasonal hints of next steps.

Winter is a calling to be an individual. Frozen rivers, snow-filled forests, bare trees evoke a curious awareness of standing alone. This season cajoles and invites us to the most private time in our inner lives, contrasted by gregarious gatherings and raucous reunions of loved ones, friends and collaborators. In the relative isolation of our thoughts and dreams the solitude in whose ground the “I” of ourselves can be reborn outside of the insistent claims of the “they”.

Self-embraced solitude is that willingness to plunge into one’s private center, which actually leads to an awareness of others and identification with the pain and heartbreak of others. The truth of this strange paradox does not leave us lonely, per se, as we descend into the aloneness, often finding our center to be filled with others.

The silence is often thunderous, so solitude is surprisingly peopled with the presence of all those whom we know and love. The last gifts of this season are loving reverence, kind humility, and simple love for which we declare our hearts’ longing for love. When we come to this quiet place in our winter journey we open a door following our nights of dreams and visions, hearing once more the blackbird’s call at the end of the winter marsh, where the willow is waiting and greening. But that is months from now. In the meantime, the silence of starry nights awaits and the cold as ice impinges on our meanderings. To that end, Theodore Roethke describes the season with these words:

It was the beginning of winter,

An in-between time,

The landscape still partly brown;

The bones of weeds kept swinging in the wind.

Above the blue snow.

It was the beginning of winter,

The light moved slowly over the frozen field,

Over the dry seed crowns,

The beautiful surviving bones

Swinging i the wind.

Light traveled over the wide field;

Stayed.

The weeds stopped swinging.

The wind moved, not alone,

Through the clear air, in the silence.

Was it light?

Was it light within?

Was it light within light?

Stillness becoming alive,

Yet still?

A lively understandable spirit

Once entertained you.

It will come again.

Be still.

Wait.

“It was the beginning of Winter,” Theodore Roethke, Norton Anthology of American Literature—Third Edition, Volume 2, 1989.