February 13, 2010
Mid-February has been a turning point for me most years. I no longer identify with winter, even though conditions may underline the fact that winter, she’s still here. Visions of spring underlie the tasks that fill my day; I’m thinking about the loveliness of awakening to the sounds of birds singing their morning songs. I’m thinking about eating lunch outside and feeling the warm sun on my t-shirted arms. I’m thinking about the color of new green that spring uses to wash over the fields. I’m thinking about open windows and doors and sitting on the deck listening to the river making her way down the mountain. I’m thinking about the playlist I want on my iPod to accompany me as I make my way down the mountain. I’m thinking about late coming later in the evening as the amount of daylight increases, aided by Daylight Savings Time. In short, I’m somewhere else.
This mid-February is kicking my ass. I’m consumed by winter. I’m buried beneath days and weeks of snow. I’m stuck, literally and figuratively. I’m huddled up and hunkered down. I’m tired from shoveling and my arm is sore. I have a tight chest and a cough. Everything in my life feels constricting and constricted by unrelenting cold and white, white, white. Nothing is easy, everything is a struggle. I understand there are people who love it, people who love to work and play in it—it’s their season. You’d think someone born in the middle of winter would feel more at home in it. Not this January child. This one wants it to be over.
I’ve done the requisite gratitude lists; appreciating, for instance, my sustained electrical service, and the fact that I have plenty of food and, more importantly, coffee. And internet, TV, and Netflix. And heating oil. I get it; lots of folks have endured worse conditions for the last few weeks. Somehow, that doesn’t translate into peace for me. It feels like the same rationale I never understood as a kid when I was told to eat everything on my plate because after all, there were children starving in India (China, Biafra, Africa, etc.) Dr. Wayne Dyer makes a good point, I think, about the fact that we can never be poor enough to change the conditions of those in poverty, nor sick enough to heal those in ill health, nor sad enough to make those who are grieving feel joy. My personal suffering won’t alleviate yours. Love doesn’t work that way.
But back to my suffering…I’ve been thinking way too much about all the struggles; all the things I want and don’t have, all the things I want to be different and they’re not, all the things I want to stay the same and they don’t. My mental trips to April just serve to underscore the winter-ness of present conditions, amplifying my longing. These are the obstacles (or, obSTACles, as my friend prefers) to my peace, love, and joy.
When I’m finally ready to stop feeling sorry for myself, I can hear the whispers of wisdom reminding me that “this, too, shall pass” and “to everything there is a season.” I breathe a sigh of relief. I remember “to everything there is a purpose under heaven.” I breathe again, this time with purpose. I close my eyes and inhale as deeply as I can and then slowly exhale til my lungs feel empty. Somewhere in that process, I experience release; a delicious space opens up in me.
Now when I look at the white blanket covering virtually every inch of ground within my sight, I remember there’s dirt and grass under that thar snow, which puts things into that bigger picture of which I’m so fond. Winter is here now and then something else will come along. I begin to notice thoughts of appreciation for those things that belong to winter alone. Yes, snow. Yes, ice. Yes single digit temperatures. Yes, quiet, yes, stillness, yes, curtailed travel. This is the now I have and I can choose to love it.
This requires letting go of all my old ideas about winter being difficult, all my old stories about its discomforts. This calls for the willingness to let go of my assessment that comfort = good and discomfort = bad. It requires letting go of the idea that peace, love, and joy are in any way contingent upon external circumstances, conditions, situations, people, places, or things. (You may be hearing the screams of protest from my ego as they echo through the mountains.)
So, on this cold, snowy, icy mid-February morning, I’ll don my long johns, my wool socks, my insulated boots, my hat, my gloves, my down vest, and venture forth into the world. I’ll throw my shovel in the back of the car, pray for safe travels, and hit the road. Even if I don’t actually get anywhere, I’m free!