Here in the UK, we are currently in the depths of winter. Though I have always loved the arrival of spring and the parties of summer, I have grown much fonder of the winter months in recent years. Waiting for the biting cold and clumsy slips on the ice is almost like waiting for the sad ending of a film you have already seen – you will it to be different every time, but it’s inevitable. Although, with a film, you can remind yourself it’s not real, while winter will still leave you with a bruised bum after your “ultra grip” boots betray you on the early morning walk to work. But surely, these months offer the world something, otherwise they wouldn’t return year after year. They have a purpose, and are instrumental in the cyclical magic of the earth.
Firstly, we are reminded to slow down. Once the Christmas and New Year buzz has passed, we know we are faced with 2 months of quiet. For some, this may feel painfully sluggish, but it is time to prepare. Every January you’ll notice people careering headfirst into their New Years’ resolutions and trying to “get the year off to a good start” by achieving as much as possible. But if we take note from hibernating species, or even our human ancestors who hid away during the winter, we know how important it is to conserve our energy during this time. Now we have houses with heating and electricity-powered streetlights, there is no logistical need to hibernate. But perhaps we still should. It’s no wonder so many people go through frequent burn-outs; they never stop! Taking a breather also allows you to collect your thoughts, ponder over the following year and what you want to dedicate your time to, and just let yourself be. I could go on about how this is actually relevant for people who menstruate on a monthly basis, but that’s for another time.
I am also inspired by the trees at this time of year. So lush and domineering throughout the rest of the year, we are reminded during the winter that they can be fragile too; so beautiful they are in their bare vulnerability. You remember how loud they are when full of leaves, the wind dancing through them to keep you company on summer strolls. But in these months, they are silent. They make me wonder who I am without my embellishments. What makes me who I am, and am I bettering myself with each year of my life? Am I taking the time to shed old skins; things that weigh me down and stop me from growing if I hold onto them? Trees teach us that we must let go of things that no longer serve us, even if that means we are weakened for a short time. The same can be said for many well-loved plants that retreat back into the soil to keep warm and come back stronger in springtime; a new version of themselves, proudly on display.
The final lesson I wanted to mention is one that I still struggle with, and probably always will, but I am beginning to come to terms with it. Last year I wrote about death and decay being a vital step in the circle of life, and about trying to recognise its beauty. In December, we lost my grandad days before his 95th birthday. His funeral was held the day before winter solstice, and though it was an incredibly sad day it was also a privilege to honour him on the darkest day of the year. As we listened to birdsong at the beginning of the service (he was an avid bird/nature lover – he even set up a nature reserve when he was younger!), I thought of the determination of those little creatures to fill the air with their melodies, even when their warm nests are beckoning. The beauty of the world continues as nature runs its course, leaving death in its path – but not out of malice, out of love. I have said it before, but death is necessary for life to continue. It is something we seem to run from until we can’t anymore, as though there is a way to avoid it. But seeing nature greet it so gracefully each year is something we can certainly learn from.
I hope you are all having a restful and gentle winter, slowing down, reflecting, and seeing the beauty in all stages of life x