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February 6, 2014

Embracing the Winter. ~ Kate St. John

Photo: Creative Commons

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

~ Albert Camus

As I write this, the snow is falling down outside of my window. The yard and houses are covered in a magical white blanket of soft frozen water. It is peaceful, calming and beautiful. It is the perfect picturesque winter view I get to take in along with the comforts of my warm office.

Winter is a hard but beautiful season. We hear of people going through “seasonal depression” or having the “winter blues”. Perhaps that is partly because we tend to be more isolated in the winter months. We hibernate in our homes either alone or with those we live with.

The outside world is more removed during these cold months, and it is in this season that our emotions seem the most exposed and intense. We have a lot more time to be alone with our thoughts and feelings. It is a time for reflection, which can be difficult and even painful.

After a hard year of personal loss, I thought the winter would be particularly hard. It has been, at times, dark and dismal, but winter has proven to be more of a teacher and healer for me than I could have expected.

It has given me gifts and moments within myself, or with others, where I was able to embrace my sadness while embracing the cold.

I walk alone more in the winter. The winter air is clear and crisp. I allow this to be my meditation, my personal space. It is just me (sometimes my dogs) and the cold night all together as one. I walk through the cold, my fingers and feet sometimes feeling numb. My face often tingles from the sharp blowing winter winds. But I walk through it, and it walks with me. It gives me comfort and clears the cobwebs of the mind. I may only pass one other soul, or sometimes no one else at all. This is my time to be alone, and feel inside and out all that has to be felt.

It is a time of year that reminds us all to be strong. The winter will pass, and the darkest days become lighter and lighter. In the hardest times of our lives there is potential for greatness and love. It is a time to pay close attention to our own needs and to look inward.

I wrote the following words a few weeks ago after one of my winter night walks. I sat in the yard outside in a sad but peaceful state, and this is what came out:

The winter is still.

All is revealed amongst the stark trees.

My sadness plays across the brittle twigs.

It echoes and breaks down with the heaviest of branches.

I stand there in silence.

All of it has been waiting for this moment.

I remain on frozen ground, my feet weighing down on the earth.

The air is clear and calm.

The night arrives in shades of pale pink and gray.

Everything is light compared to me.

Smoke from chimneys puff into clouds.

No wind or breeze.

No movement, only inside.

The window of stars above the roof makes me remember more.

Feeling nostalgia, my feet still planted.

Rooted and connected.

Memories cannot hide here,

They are exposed on the stone and wood houses.

They move up my spine and my eyes swell.

I can feel the landscape, not just the cold.

The past seasons all beating in my chest.

The moon has me set in a trance.

I remember it all, the love and the loss.

The years are all in the moment.

All of time and life arrive at once.

I have felt brutally cold and painful days. There are moments that I want to collapse and I allow myself to do that now. The winter makes us strong but it also reminds us it is okay to be weak. Even the strongest trees that stand through all seasons lose branches and limbs sometimes.

One of the greatest human traits is our ability to endure anything. However, there is great beauty in our own fragility and vulnerability—the winter has allowed me to find balance between both.

I am grateful for the lessons of all seasons and the ability to live in a place where I can experience them all.

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Assistant editor: Guenevere Neufeld/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives

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Kate St. John