The Wisdom of Winter

Sweet Darkness by David Whyte When your eyes are tired the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own.

There you can be sure you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb tonight.

The night will give you a horizon further than you can see.

You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn

anything or anyone that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

January has settled deep into our bones now. The chill of it. The bleakness. And yes, even the beauty of it all. It is a simplified view. Skeletal. Austere. We woke this morning to a thermometer reading 3 degrees. The darkness of the new day wrapped around our newly-awakened eyes like an unwelcome guest. The early dawn air and surroundings actually appear blue as we begin preparing breakfast for our not-so-little ones. We live in a frozen land. Hours later, the sun has emerged from behind the mountains, casting light beams through our windows. The snow sparkles like the glitter from a preschooler's art kit. For the moment, I feel redeemed by the light.

What is it about winter? Particularly, the beginning months of each new year. The merriment and frenzy of December is long past. The days of January and February spread out before us like an open road. These days can feel empty for many of us. Long. Dark. Uncomfortable. Lonely. Quiet.

The world just feels different. Our hikes are filled with a new silence. All that surrounds us feels suspended in sleep. Noises of all kinds are absorbed by the thick blanket of snow. It covers all we see. Branches, rocks, mountain crevices, the underneaths of cliffs and trails. The trees look lifeless. They almost cease to move. The green lush hues of spring and summer and the rich foliage of fall are long gone here.

Nature has gone inside. Into the roots. To shore up. To strengthen from the inside out. When you think of planting bulbs in the fall (like tulips) -- you plant them several inches below the ground. They actually need the cold and dark to prepare. They require months of this "shoring up" to be able to bloom in the spring. From the outside, the bulb looks as inactive and dormant as the winter trees. But in a few months from now, a green shoot will burst from that bulb and give way to most beautiful burst of color.

Are we as human beings so different? Could our burst of color reflect the internal work we do in the dark spaces of our winters (whether we are really speaking about the winter season or just our figurative winters)?

The darkness and cold of winter compel us back into our homes. It is the perfect time to return to our relationships with those we share space and time. And quite frankly, it is also the ideal time to reflect on our relationship with ourselves. Winter provides us the perfect space to go inside ourselves. To process our experiences. To give them life and meaning. To grieve our losses or little deaths. To count what has been born in those empty places. To nurture these new births.

To treat winter like the season of spring or summer is to shortchange ourselves the opportunity to grow ourselves at our roots. We can sleep more, write more, meditate more, express more, rest more, enjoy soulful books or movies, take long walks, confide more in our trusted and wise confidants, listen to music that resonates and sustains--in short, we can nourish ourselves. Shore up. Tend to our inside places. And take stock.

It can feel scary to head into the darkness of ourselves. To examine beliefs that might be limiting how we love other human beings in our life. Or become more aware of how we value or do not value ourselves. We can feel our sadnesses thoroughly--they often point to what may be missing or what we truly yearn for. We may finally see how different patterns of negative behavior stem from unhealed childhood wounds or unhealthy relationships. How do we heal that which remains in the dark? If our deeper selves remain cloaked in the darkness, we live in an unaware state, and are controlled or burdened by unconscious thoughts.

We must be willing to face the dark. Period.

I wish you time to shore up. To feel and heal. To nourish yourself at your roots. Do not fear the darkness. It is where the wisdom of your story lies. Go deep. You are worth it.