“One gift [of winter] is beauty, different from the beauty of autumn but somehow lovelier still: I am not sure that any sight or sound on earth is as exquisite as the hushed descent of a sky full of snow. Another gift is the reminder that times of dormancy and deep rest are essential to all living things. Despite all appearances, of course, nature is not dead in winter—it has gone underground to renew itself and prepare for spring. Winter is a time when we are admonished, and even inclined, to do the same for ourselves.”
Parker J. Palmer (Let Your Life Speak)
Winter in Alabama is different from anywhere else. It is not freezing cold most of the time, though we have our moments—a few days in a row of 30 degree temps is common. Even then, by afternoon, it has warmed into the 50's and even 60's. It's a refreshing respite from the stifling heat that most of the year affords us.
I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, where winter was winter. Snow fell regularly, knee-deep and wet. What I remember most about that, besides still having to wear dresses to school in spite of the cold, was the silence. I always knew it had snowed when I woke to almost absolute silence. The thick, white blanket thrown over the world had brought a stop to all usual activity. Every human, and every critter, was burrowed down in their beds with the cover pulled a little higher. Winter was a time of stillness.
In the Christian church, this is the beginning of Advent—the season of waiting and watching for the divine birth. But long before Christianity, winter was a season for turning in, for seeking clarity, of waiting for light to emerge from the darkness. In Native American spirituality, it is the season of the buffalo—that burly, solid, earth-connected animal of great strength. The image is of bison standing in snow; sturdy, wooly and grounded. Buffalo represents the feminine energy of non-resistance. In the Taoist tradition, it is “not doing” and yet accomplishing everything. When we allow ourselves a period of deep rest, of quiet turning in and pondering, we are incubating the seeds of tomorrow's quests.
I hope it's cold where you are, so you don't feel compelled to go outside and chop wood, carry water. Instead, on this winter Sunday, take some time for rest. That is, after all, the purpose of the Sabbath.
In the Spirit,