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The Winter of our “Content”

December 21, 2010

“Hear! hear!” screamed the jay from a neighboring tree, where I had heard a tittering for some time, “winter has a concentrated and nutty kernel, if you know where to look for it.”  ~Henry David Thoreau, 28 November 1858 journal entry


A few days ago, I came across a tidbit of wisdom that spurred some critical and creative thinking. (I like that!)  According to Edith Sitwell (British poet, critic and person of a rather sad, but elite upbringing),

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:  it is the time for home.”

What struck me most about this perspective is that “winter is a time for home.”  I had one of those “waiting to exhale” moments … you know the kind where you feel like you finally have permission or a reminder to breathe?  Anyway, as I thought on this idea, I thought about how even nature “preaches this Truth.” 

Consider and compare the busy-ness of our lives to the seasons of the year.  Winter is a time when most all nature (flora and fauna) takes a rest … becomes reclusive.  Some refer to winter as a period of dying, but I think it more like a long, winter nap or hibernation. If we only approached the winter season with this perspective, we might be more rejuvenated and ready to embrace the Spring when life begins to sprout forth, and then summer when it is in full bloom. 

There are two challenges that keep us from experiencing the “wonder of Winter.”  One is that we just don’t know how to put on the brakes.  Our lives have become so overly planned and filled with activities.  We know we’re worn out and weary … but I think we are afraid to stop.  Why would we be afraid, you ask?  That brings up the second challenge.

We’re afraid of embracing the purpose of winter … because being idle or at rest will leave us to our thoughts and feelings.  If we stay continuously busy, then we don’t have to think about … well, ANYTHING.    It’s true that there is a certain element of “blue” or “down” feelings in the winter that we all probably deal with. 

In fact, some brainiacs have even come up with a term to explain winter blues.  It’s called “SAD.” (duh)  SAD is an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder – a syndrome which shows as a depressed mood in winter and various other easily identifiable symptoms such as changes in appetite, sleep, diet and weight.  It’s supposedly created by lack of exposure to sunlight.

Now I do believe that a body needs a good portion of exposure to the SON (and the Sun) on a daily basis.   And saying that “winter is a time for home” certainly does not mean to “hole up and not go outside for months.”  Winter does not mean dying … it still means living and part of living means “resting” and recovering the hope, the faith and the purpose to which you are called.

“Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ahhhh, Wolfgang … way to think it through

As the cold and blustery days of winter are settling in, surely many of us will feel the discomfort (sometimes it’s brutal) of physical and emotional maladies. I surely don’t mean to dismiss or make light of such.

However, as Anne Bradstreet points out,  

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” 

So the question is … even in consideration of the harshness of winter, how can we embrace this season with purpose and wonder and appreciation? 

First, see winter for what it really is … and for what it is worth to your life and lifestyle the rest of the year.

Ruth Stout says,

“There is a privacy about it [winter] which no other season gives you. In Spring, Summer and Fall, people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, , can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.”

Belonging to yourself?  (I think that’s one of the things we’re most afraid of)  It is a necessary aspect of a healthy life and perspective.  There have been too many seasons of my life when I’ve felt like everybody had a piece of me … except me. And belonging to yourself doesn’t necessary mean “overindulgence” but rather, taking time and giving attention to matters that keep you healthy and safe … and focused.  Winter, therefore, is a prime time to “regroup” from all the many directions your life has taken over the past year.

When I take time to realize how long its been since I read a book … listened to a music CD … written a poem or a blog … or even taken a nice, long soak in the bathtub (I shower daily by the way) — I realize how much I am missing … ME! I realize how thinly I have been spread. (which gives purpose to “fattening” up in the winter time – hmmm?)

So like I said at the beginning, reading that line, “winter is a time for home,” I felt relief. I even felt a reminder or nudge of Divine Providence that winter is here … and it is time to lay the busy-ness aside and settle in for some hot cocoa, a pot of soup on the stove and a new jar of bath salts to help soothe my aching joints and other ailing parts.

To find purpose in winter is to appreciate the opportunities that God gives us year-round. The psalmist tells us to “be still and know that He is God.”(Psalm 46:10)  While we are called to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” (Exodus 20:8) perhaps we should look at the season of winter as a time of sabbatical where we also pull away from all the things that distract us from who we are … and WHOSE we are. 

Ahhh Winter … we’ll have no discontent.  For surely now is the time that our CONTENT will be refurbished, rejuvenated and revived so that we can awake in Spring to new life, new dreams, new perspectives and new challenges. 

Who said what …

Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau; July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American author, poet, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher, and leading transcendentalist. He is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state.

Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell (7 September 1887 – 9 December 1964) was a British poet and critic

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German pronunciation: [ˈjoːhan ˈvɔlfɡaŋ fɔn ˈɡøːtə]  ( listen), 28 August 1749  – 22 March 1832) was a German writer and polymath.[1] Goethe is considered by many to be the most important writer in the German language and one of the most important thinkers in Western culture.

Anne Dudley Bradstreet (c. 1612 – September 16, 1672) was the first female poet to be published from either Puritan America or England. Her work met with a positive reception in both the Old World and the New World.[1]

Ruth Stout (June 14, 1884-August 22, 1980) was an American author best known for her “No-Work” gardening books and techniques.

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