Yes, I know that Jon Kabat-Zinn already has that title. I keep reminding myself of the truth of his statement (which probably wasn’t original with him, either) as the next in a series of substantial winter storms moves closer and closer. But my struggle with winter isn’t just about winter. It is about being present to reality, no matter whether I like that reality or not.
I have a belief that I only have to embrace winter a little and I’ll stop wishing it away. And so I do embrace winter, sort of. That is, I have developed a fascination with the light available in the winter, early morning and late afternoon light, especially when there is something developing in the weather.
I love the way that the light stretches over the land, slicing just above the horizon, lengthening shadows and distorting shapes. I love the way that the tiny sparkles of drifting snow twist and turn in the wind, eddying and flowing and suddenly becoming sharply distinct in the sunlight of midday.
I love the red of the sky….the pre-blizzard sky. And I love being at home while the snow is pounding down, puttering in the kitchen, making the house smell spicy and warm, fingers wrapped around hot steaming mugs, wool socks and fleece shirts and even a warm scarf keeping me cosy in the house.
Somehow that’s not enough, though. That’s not enough of an embrace for me to stop thinking about how much I prefer taking the dog for his walk when I don’t have to spend 15 minutes dressing myself to go outdoors. I can’t seem to get past a sensation of being closed in, either because of the overwhelming amount of outdoor clothing I require to stay warm (can you say “Michelin Man?”) or the overwhelmingly high snowbanks along the street and even along the sidewalks. I understand that I ought to be grateful for plowed sidewalks and I am, I truly am. And I am also struggling with the claustrophobic fear that winter will never, ever be over.
Yup, those crocuses are supposed to be an image of the hope of spring. I also know that yesterday was Imbolc, Candlemas, Feast of Saint Birgid, all of those holidays which are supposed to mean the same thing…halfway through winter! And today is the day for ol’ Punxatawny Phil (my American roots are showing) to let us know the rodent perspective on that. But you and I both know that today’s blizzard is more like what I should expect, not crocuses, for the next, oh, ten weeks. Depending on how high and deep that old snow gets piled on top of my crocus bed.
It is a continuous practice for me to try to be present to what IS. Winter happens to be WHAT IS right now. I watch myself attend and appreciate and then also watch my thinking slip away into fantasies of summer. Can I be kind to myself around my inattention? Can I just notice my thinking….oh, that’s what my thoughts are doing….and bring myself back to here, to now, to Winter 2015? Can I be present with my own claustrophobia and watch that feeling begin, grow, and then lose traction, as feelings always do?
In someone else’s words, “Don’t wish it away. Don’t think of it like it’s forever.” Neither one of those thoughts is helpful. Both are ways to avoid what is happening here and now. (In case you were wondering, those are lines from an Elton John song that was popular in the 1980s…yes, that long ago….see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6KYAVn8ons)
Welcome, Blizzard. Welcome, Life.