Sometimes I wonder if the constant complaints about winter—the cold, the snow, the darkness, the inconvenience—are a form of resistance to winter’s spiritual invitations. They’re challenging; they’re scary, they’re brutal in their honesty.
I’ve come to love the austere revelations winter offers, as I’ve come to recognize the wisdom of loving what I resist, opening to relationship with perceived obstacles, problems, roadblocks and impediments. Limiting my journey to summer’s merry, easy road limits my journey.
In summer, my vision is attracted by everything at once, overwhelmed by the impression of colors, mingled patterns and textures. A summer spirituality allows my mind to perpetually skip from pleasure to pleasure, one sensuous delight and self-affirming thought after another. But, as the season of winter allows me to focus on the singular beauty and unique mystery of the particular and specific, entering a winter spirituality allows me to be with my darkness and find that its augmentation to my spirit, if initially frightening, is eventually healing. Shadow and light are needed for the picture to be full and the spirit to be whole.
I appreciate the generous cloaks winter creates to isolate color and form. I can photograph one tree, one bird, one sunrise, over and over, and always see something new. In winter, it seems the world tells me who it is at its core and asks me if I can respond with my own true name. “Who are you?” asks winter, over and over, paring away, in loving patience, all the usual answers that satisfy such a question in polite, superficial society.
Winter spirituality helps me meditate more and more deeply on the gift and uniqueness of each part of myself and my life, each partner with whom I dance, each question with which I struggle.
Long years, a lifetime, of encrusting these relationships with projections and desires and hopes and discharged emotions and learned reactions and one-sided memories, can be stilled by winter’s gift of silence and long hours to re-visit and re-vision, The external shudders away, baring what is real, teaching me again that meaning is fluid but essence eternal.
The local meteorologists call this the “coldest winter” in 35 years, and people complain, some unceasingly, about the hardships of enduring it. But I’ve learned to love winter as I love my shadow. They are beautiful; they bring wisdom; they lead me to rare and vital presence. And they are crucial to the springtime’s arrival; crucial, as in “cross,” as in the bloom of synthesis bursting from the thesis-antithesis of winter’s black and white…
I love winter and the spirituality she engenders for helping me to see, even a little more clearly, the truth before—and within—me. By uncluttering all the other seasons’ competing imagery, I can eliminate the chaos of color and form surrounding the pure beauty of a solitary squirrel, by muting all the rival noise muffling one blue jay’s cry, I can hear its once-in-a-lifetime once-ness, by stilling all my swirling mental and spiritual dissonance, I’m guided to focus solely on where I am in relationship to the Holy and all her streaming invitations.
Spirit speaks uniquely in all of life’s seasons, in all of life, every moment; disregard this, and we miss vital communication, like tuning out another’s conversation. Only listen, says the Spirit, in winter’s guise; listen, and be led to silence.
And when I can listen more deeply, winter is the one who whispers to my heart those essential truths that keep it beating: I am loved and lover, created and creator, co-conspirator (helpmate of Spirit) in fashioning these sewn-together moments called my life.
Peeling away the layers of projected need, repeated story, and entrained patterns of response, winter teaches me to see what is before me. To see what is.
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18 thoughts on “Winter Spirituality: To See What Is Before Us”
Oh I loved this. How right you are about winter. It is brutal and does focus the mind. I rather enjoy snow, it transforms the landscape and the winter stars are stunning. I also appreciate the bark of the trees at this time of the year, something that’s overlooked in summer.I think you have expressed beautifully how winter enables us to focus on one thing and appreciate it all the more….
“Shadow and light are needed for the picture to be full and the spirit to be whole.” That really resonates with me, sometimes I think you are reading my mind and expressing my deepest thought, but oh, how beautifully!!!
The pics here are stunning, I loved the birds, how colourful they are against the snow, and the pic of the dogs in the whiteout is unique and sums up this lovely post.That last pic of the shrouded bare trees is very mysterious. A fantastic post…..again you have given me much to ponder on.xxx
Hey, Dina, thanks for your lovely visits and comments…I do love winter and I cringe when I hear myself complain…although this one has been fairly brutal at times, and I worry about people and other animals struggling to keep warm and fed…and I have to be watchful that I’m not using winter to hide in my introvert security too much, too…but I do love the help in focusing that winter offers and the startling contrasts I don’t see in other seasons…I think today’s freezing rains and snow and the return to cold temperatures will lead all of us, even the die-hards like myself, to look towards spring with a bit more yearning…I figure if I miss any last bits of wisdom winter offers me, I’ll have a chance to gather it in next year! 🙂
I can’t imagine surviving winter if I were to succumb to the desperation and complaining so many fall prey to. How wretched the season would be. Thanks for your wonderful reminder Kitty for us to appreciate life in all its seasons and to work with each one to get closer to who we really are and loving that person. Spring is not far off now and soon we will once again be planting seeds and getting lost in our outdoor activities. This is why this winter time is so precious for it offers us the stillness to go within that summer often takes away because of our busyness….Be well my friend and I hope all is well at the cottage….Sending you love from the mountains….VK
I agree, complaint as a fuel is something I’m really “listening for” in myself this year; it’s like a low-grade fever we need to recognize and heal, but it’s endemic in our culture. There are such gifts that open when I stop reciting complaints, though, and feed on gratitude…I’m trying and making some headway. This winter has certainly been an excellent and challenging professor!
I do wish I could see the mountains in winter, or any season. I hope you and your companions are warm, cozy, merry and content. Peace to you, Hollis, and gratitude for your kind words and visits! Time to sit with dreams and garden catalogues! 🙂
This is such a beautiful post, Kitty. And the photos give such pleasure and inspiration. I agree with the message, though I have to admit that it is difficult for me to withstand the cold. Often I go out, and am forced back in quickly, because my body just can’t produce the heat needed to warm my insides, in the cold of winter. Still, I know that it’s true… and your reminder will stay with me, to give me a bit more courage when I want to retreat to my warm room. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Shimon, and I agree that bitter cold-to-the-bone weather is no treat…wish I could share some soup and warm bread (and whiskey!) with you on such days. 🙂 I’m trying to catch myself when complaints are at the ready, though, and instead offer at least a second glance towards situations that might conceal a gift. In winter, I honestly don’t find this as challenging as I know I will when the weather turns hot and humid. 🙂
We probably all benefit from the variety of seasons, and I think it’s natural for us to long for the next when the current feels as though it’s run its course…but I’m trying to stay present and accept what’s occurring right now in as grateful a spiritual posture as I can, authentically, but with a bit of effort, if needed.
I fail, often, but it’s interesting to see what happens when I catch myself and stop a complaint before its energy is released…
Peace to you, and warmth, my friend. I so, so, so value your visits and wisdom.
I have been sent your lovely creations on a couple of occasions by your sister Beth. I truly appreciate your gift and agree whole-heatedly with this day’s posting. I am a new resident in a particularly cold area…Canadian border of New York at the St. Lawrence Seaway. Residents say it’s the worst winter in years, but it’s also been so incredibly beautiful. Reuniting with my daughter and her family and US culture after so many years in Switzerland has been a challenge but I promised myself I would embrace winter and so it has been. Thank you for your beautiful gifts of word and photography.
Peace, Love and Joy,
What a huge life transition! I’m so moved by your willingness to see the beauty in winter while you’re undergoing such transformation. Thank you for visiting and sharing, for nurturing your spirit, and for promising yourself that you would tend your journey mindfully. What a difference one person, paying attention, can make in the world. I believe your children and grandchildren will benefit from your positive orientation and the energy it creates in ways we could never predict…I’m grateful for your example and strength: May you be blessed in this “new life.”
I stopped by earlier and came back to read this at a more leisurely pace. How exquisitely done this post is – words and images both. Hard for me to express how in sync I am with what you write, so just . . . thank you.
Goodness, how kind, and how eternally generous when another person shares her heart and assures us we have another kindred spirit somewhere in this mysterious and often confounding dance. Thank you…and please know that your wonderful blog infuses my world with joy, color, challenge and depth. 🙂 It is always a treat.
What a beautiful post — both the words and photos! Winter’s time of quiet reflection can indeed refresh and inspire us, if we choose to let it. I’ve been on a virtual journey this winter, challenging myself to discover and comment on a positive blog every day. As a result I’ve found that I have been noticing and appreciating more of what is around me, rather than just complaining about the cold weather out of habit.
What a generous and elegant practice, Meg; thank you for visiting and taking the time to share! To take oneself deeper than habit sounds like such a helpful way to monitor awareness and staying present, and in gratitude. Thank you for the inspiration!
Beautiful post Kitty…..
Almost makes one ashamed of begrudging one of the 4 seasons…..
How wonderful Spring will be….after the harshness of Mr Winter….
So looking forward to that!
Enjoy your weekend….
And a lovely week’s end and new beginning to you, Linda; thank you. Yes, I’m looking forward to spring as well, while trying not to turn away from any last gifts winter is trying to offer…a delicate balance. 🙂
Kitty, so wonderful to return to your space and feel the wonderment that you share of the world. Your photos are exquisite, as are your thoughts so beautifully expressed. I understand your message, even if I can’t quite share the sentiment.
Thank you, Lynn; good to hear from you. I’m looking forward to long days in the gardens…not today (snow coming tonight), but next Sunday, they are telling us it will be almost 60 degrees…I believe spring’s about to make her entrance. 🙂
Nature is one with life and teaches us to accept things as they are. Namaste.
Yes, I agree. If we can stay present and listen, nature is a marvelous and wise teacher! Namaste to you as well. Thank you for visiting and sharing…and gentle peace to your day.