Spring is officially here, but in the Boston area, we are still defrosting. After a record-breaking winter of more than nine feet of snow (most within a month’s time), coupled with bone-chilling temperatures, we can hardly believe that the frozen tundra outside our doors has finally disappeared. This winter has been a lesson in accepting everything, especially Mother Nature’s unpredictable extremes. Again and again in life, we are called to navigate unexpected blizzards and ice storms—inner and outer, human and environmental. The seasonal weather variations teach us to let go of expectation and just live with what is. If we struggle, we suffer. If we learn to face each moment with acceptance, we can live in peace and equanimity.
In addition, each season serves a purpose. In winter, the weather can shut everything down, and we are often forced to stay inside. Sometimes inactivity, the restorative pause, is necessary. In fact, it always is. (Animals hibernate; perennials die to the ground.) It doesn’t always feel good or “right” to us. We think we should be doing something, anything, to move forward, progress. Yet non-doing is crucial to nature’s, and our, cycles of life. The slowing down and dying away in autumn and winter allow for the rebirth and resurgence in spring. In the midst of the expansiveness and warmth of summer, we forget that those days of growth and flowering occur because of the days of rest and restoration that winter insists all living beings observe.
That includes humans. Within the stillness and solitude of a heavy all-day snowfall, with work cancelled, we can find a kind of inner peace as we gaze at the falling snow from our windows. Later, of course, we have to shovel that snow! But afterward we can drink hot chocolate and rest again for a while. Winter moderates our activities for us. If we resent the orchestration, we spend the winter angry and cold. If we allow for nature’s wild variations and interruptions, we are less stressed and can look forward to spring with a rested outlook.
This past winter has been a real challenge for me. My soul knows the wisdom of cycles of rest and renewal, but my mind forgets at times during the seemingly endless months of icy cold and early darkness. As the days gradually lengthen and the light fills my consciousness each morning, I feel my physical body reaching out to spring, yearning for warm air, green trees, and blooming flowers. And when they finally appear, I am filled with such intense gratitude—especially this year! The colors seem extraordinarily vibrant, almost unreal, after so many days of winter grays and whites. Perhaps this is another gift that the change of seasons brings: deep appreciation for the beauty of rebirth in nature.
We live on a planet of polarities. Even the warmer climates have their own seasonal changes. When I lived in California, winter brought weeks of rain. Now, of course, the people there are living with a severe drought. The extremes of life on Earth are part of the experience of being alive. We came here for this roller coaster ride. If everything were always the same, we would not be stimulated to grow and evolve as human be-ings–or to dig deep and find the blessing and miracle in every single remarkable moment we are alive.
“ I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.”—Mary Oliver