Pulling out of a parking lot late one winter afternoon, my eyes were drawn upward to a large, soaring bird as she graced the stark winter sky. Instinctively, and just in the nick of time, I returned my gaze downward to barely avoid careening into my unsuspecting neighbor.
Therein lies the “risk” of winter for me: it is utter amazement and distraction. The newness of that crisp, compelling stillness enraptures me as the bare-bones landscape draws me into its mystery. It is in this season that I feel most attuned to nature’s cyclical beat. That may not be your experience; I “get” the grousing and “funk” that winter’s presence evokes in so many. I understand the version of “expectant experience” that, holidays aside, paints winter as a dreaded passage to endure in anticipation of the fullness of spring.
But that’s not my version. Not by a longshot. I look forward to winter in the Southeast, where nature beckons gently, as a beloved sister would, then invites me inward. Heeding the season’s call, I put my spring-ready To-Do list ON HOLD and resist the temptation to rush things. Resisting the temptation to rush things is a life skill, a practice that gifts us with more presence and more engagement with what is. Here are five joyful ways you can settle into these last soulful weeks of this season of wonder:
Check your mindset…and your auto-pilot
Are you stuck in an entrenched habit of thinking of winter as a period of time to “get through”? Do you automatically nod in agreement and join in the chorus of winter woe-mongers who put an emotional damper on this necessary season? Why do that to yourself? It’s not good for your emotional well-being, and it interferes with your ability to create a positive experience. Instead, replace a thought such as “I really don’t enjoy winter” with “I’m committed to experiencing this season in fresh, new ways.”
Follow Mother Nature’s example
Oscar Wilde once observed that, “Wisdom comes with winters.” There is no better time to hibernate, to go within, and to renew yourself. The shorter days mean longer evenings that lend themselves to reading, meditating, or a long and meaningful, old-school phone conversation. That said, if cabin fever or warm weather deprivation provokes a primal need to howl like the wind every once in a while, go ahead, allow yourself that cathartic release. You will be the better for it when you settle back into stillness.
Open your heart and your eyes
Consider these wise words from the poet Robert Frost:
“The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued”
While spring and summer draw us into a full-on experience of natural beauty, winter’s beauty calls quietly and often discreetly. If your heart needs a “change of mood,” you have only to look and to see what is right there, in the rosemary that continues to thrive, the black lace of branches overhead, the gurgle of water in a melting stream, the blossoming bush in your neighbor’s yard.
Attend to your hearth
What better time than now to focus on all of those little projects that pile up throughout the year? For me it is about reorganizing the closets, discarding and deleting paperwork and files that are no longer relevant, and in many small ways, aligning my living space with how I want to feel right now in my own little nest.
Think outside of the hearth
The wise women in my circle focus on a number of joyful ways to experience winter. They’re gathering for a “Ladies Only” Firepit Friday, an afternoon at a local winery, a day trip to a small town they’re curious about. They are seeking new experiences while also invoking those that are tested and true.
The first new buds, the returning birds, the warmer temperatures – all will arrive in their own, pre-ordained time. For now, breathe in the cool, crisp air, then embrace and enjoy what remains of this season of wonder.