With Chinese New Year beginning on the 12th February, the main winter moments of celebration—Advent, Christmas, New Year—are over. We are invited into the deeper mystery of our annual rotation around the sun. In a culture dominated by summer, though we missed last summer curtailed as it was by disease and disorder, a time without winter would be to miss our time of deepening, gestating and ripening within. For some, I admit that I am not one, winter is simply the blip or dark place between the brightness of the oncoming spring and darkening of resplendent autumn. Winter is the time of deepening, as I have said, when we can, “at last”, slow down becoming re-grounded in the core of our experience.
In winter we have the chance to regain our vision as one stumbling about the desert at night. Eventually as our eyes adjust to bleakness where we can discern the subtleties of landscapes: shadings, textures, formations, minimal plant life and telltale marks of small creatures bounding through the open terrain. Without the cold of winter, the human race may well have succumbed to many more plagues and disease, which seem ubiquitous in the warmer climates, as they can dissipate and even die in the perishing cold of mid-winter. It was about winter that Albert Camus once wrote: “In the middle of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”
Each day seems to be a recapitulation of the full array of seasonal possibilities. From the darkness of a cold winter’s night comes the sunrise of morning with the warming reminding us of spring; only to give way to a momentary summer when the heat of the day warms and nurtures, but for a moment. Then again, as the evening shadows fall we perceive the autumnal rhythm of encroaching darkness. For hundreds of thousands of years, human beings have learned these rhythms, which are before knowledge and understanding, yet they are the substance of what nurtures and sustains.
The preliterate wisdom of this season is that we must draw back and settle down a bit, despite the hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares, expectations and lack thereto. Without winter we would miss the best in the darkness of our winter dreams, and the healing possibilities of hibernations. So I call each us back into the realization that there is a time put down the work and breathe, letting the body heal from the onslaughts of work, the dilemmas of life, and acceptance the many invitations to “just be” within ourselves.
Winter invites us to this stunning quiet time to dream, allowing our dreams to be nurtured and upheld by the wonders of a starry night accompanied by a snow-covered dawn. We can nestle in and feel the warmth generated from our own bodies: warm from within. We can also contemplate the deep darkness of a moonless night and be enwrapped by the dark, as if it were a velvet blanket of assurance.
In a season, when the whole world seems turned upside we find ourselves with conflicts and contradictions, inherent in these years, evermore challenging when hopes rise and visions become enfleshed. The Inauguration became another beginning and another moment to pause and reflect on the losses and changes, on the gains and the rock hard intransigence of the past. We have entered another year and another chance to make real our aspirations and hopes for improvement. While 2020 was unforgettable for many things, it was not deeply satisfying or hopeful on the face of it. Yet, stuff did happen that marks us forever and other stuff, just happened. Regardless, we now have a new moment to rise again into a better space within our hearts, minds and spirits and recognize that the future beckons with no guarantees, and that all we are left to do is love.
I hold you in my prayers each day praying that we will learn from this time what life has to teach us and hold one another—albeit at a distance—with a deeper sense of gratitude and forbearance. There is a great deal there so let us deal gently with one another and learn to love even those whom we cannot understand. Practicing peace and living in solidarity will take us a long way.