This year, I’m renewing my friendship with winter.
Here, in the Pacific Northwest, winter is weeks of big-bellied clouds looming low, dimming daylight to a crepuscular gloom that seeps invisibly into night. And drenching us in Biblical torrents of rain.
As a new immigrant to this country, born and raised in the heat of Bombay, my introduction to winters here in Canada was — a series of astonishments.
Can I begin to describe that shiver of shock when I first stepped out my front door into rain that puckered my skin in a frigid cascade where I was expecting liquid warmth?
So white. So silent. A whirl of flakes revealing the movements of wind, settling onto tree limbs and rooftops, etching patterns, in my body, whose effects I learned to trace, and then to love. A world of unimagined beauty, of strange and magical softness.
My first winter here, I bought snow boots, a puffy parka, quilted snow pants. Wool socks, wool hats, wool gloves, wool scarves.
I hiked up snowy hillsides and slogged through snow-covered woods — explored the mysteries of snow with all the curiosity and wonder with which I’d first explored the rainforests of my childhood. I learned to smile with my mouth closed to keep my teeth from aching in the frigid air. I developed a friendship with winter.
These last few years, though, I’ve reneged on the promise of that friendship; recoiled from winter’s lacerations. Protecting the fragility that follows the depredations of illness on an aging body — or this is what I’ve told myself. So I’ve curled up snugly in my home and avoided the deluge outside. Nixed icy sidewalks and slippery terrain; padded about my living room in fleece-lined slippers.
Turned on every light in my house – many small, substitute suns. Read books and more books to drown my longing for weather in my face, rough bark against my hands, walks on muddy woodland trails, and the sounds the earth makes as she settles into her winter bed.
The price I’ve paid for avoidance is disconnection from the natural world, which is breath and air, beauty and nourishment for me. Which is disconnection from my animal self. I’ve banished winter to the Land of the Benighted, except on those rare days when the sun shines. I’ve turned my back on winter; I’ve stopped being its friend.
I’ve missed our friendship.
This year, I’m out walking in every kind of weather. 80 km per hour winds? I have a long, winter coat and fleece-lined boots for that. Driving rain? No matter — I hitch up the hood of my parka and peer through the torrent streaming down my glasses to offer a hum of delight to the arbutus tree on the side of the footpath. I praise its curling bark, its glossy green leaves, its bright red berries. And I receive waves of its love in return. O, beloved wayside friend!
These last couple of months, I’ve re-discovered so much beauty, such enchantment, by coming closer to the friend whose arrival I’ve dreaded the past few years.
The way light flows through bare branches, liquid, open-hearted. Chickadees perched on swaying treetops, turning their lovely little heads into the wind.
The world’s magic is always here. It’s been restored to me, or I to it, because I’ve come closer to embrace it.
That embrace changes me. It widens my shoulders and lengthens my stride; deepens my breath; strengthens my legs; makes my skin eager and joyful under the touch of wind and rain. It expands my mind, enlivens my spirit, gladdens my heart.
I become curious about other areas of my life where I’m contracting away instead of coming closer. And I study the effects of that contraction – on my relationship with my writing; on the things I’ve been creating but haven’t yet shared; on aspects of my business that I’ve pushed back to ‘later’, when all I really want is to embrace them now, to praise their burgeoning beauty, offer them succour, give them what they need to flourish, love them enough to share them with the world.
Mending my relationship with winter is recalibrating my relationships with other elements of my life. And, in the matrix of that realignment, everyday miracles shine.
So, my friends, I’m moving in closer.
Another time, I’ll share with you some of the magic I’ve been making this year; some of the magic that’s been making me.
For now, though, I’m eager to know…
What is your ‘winter’? What are you avoiding? What have you turned your back on, that you once loved, that you still love? What is it — in your relationship with yourself, your world, your business, your art, your friendships — that’s calling you to come closer?
I’d love to hear.
My wish for you is this: May you embrace that which belongs with you; that which is calling you to come closer. May you renew the love and intimacy between you that re-enchants your world.