"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, January 5, 2014


January and February are my least favorite months. Even as I write those words, I wish they weren't true. I wish I could not even notice the cold darkness. I wish I could embrace each moment of each day and be grateful for what those offer. Enough that the light emanating from such gratitude drives back the shadows of winter.

There is plenty to be grateful for, even in these gray days absent the vibrant golds and reds and greens of the holiday just past. Sun, when it breaks through, warming like a kiss. Skies, both morning and evening, the pink of new love. A single resonant robin chirp in the midst of the wintery and tinny music of gold-crowned kinglets.

After some weeks of absence, Bald Eagles are back. While I know their comings and goings from my line of sight are not specifically about my needs, their appearance always feels like a personal gift. A reminder that I'm not alone. Yesterday's sighting was the most powerful in a long time. Walking Toby in late afternoon, the sun casting a glow and making unmelted frost shimmer, turtled in my thoughts, I heard the tell-tale chuckle. I looked up to see two mature adults sharing the top of a Douglas fir across the river. After watching them for a bit, I continued on only to discover a completely brown and slightly rumpled eagle, probably last summer's baby, perched on a snag close by.

In those moments I feel so glad for my life, so glad to be alive.

But in these two months, they are not enough, those moments of grace and glory. I feel on edge, restless, heavy. I want time to pass. Which goes against everything I believe. And still I want to be sometime else. Somewhere else. Maybe even someone else.

Because I've been living with the challenges of winter for a long time, I have developed strategies for getting through. For getting to spring ready to burst into blossom as soon as the sun and earth invite. For enduring the inner darkness at its work while the outer darkness provides a complete absence of distraction.

My favorite strategy has always been to have something to look forward to. Some grand summer adventure that will motivate me to do all the healthy things that winter offers no encouragement for. And I have that this year. An epic adventure to anticipate.

I spent yesterday reveling in, reading about, losing myself in the anticipation of next summer's adventure. I intended to start writing about it today and to use it as a focus for my writing until I'm on the other side of it. And it was that escape that brought me to this most recent place of questioning. If I spend the next six months forward focused will I miss something important? If I find a way to embrace winter completely, without distraction or escape, will I be happier, stronger, healthier? Does the artificial light of future happiness somehow diminish the healing power of darkness?

Any time an old strategy starts to feel uncomfortable, I know to listen. Something new is about to be revealed. For now I wait. And wonder if there's not a way to have both - the energy and light of anticipation along with the patience for and presence in winter's dark dormancy.


Barb said...

I know there is a way to have both, Deb. Each person must find their own way to it though. The eagles showed themselves for a purpose - they're thought to bring good luck, so triple luck for you! I love winter until about the end of April, when I still have a month (at least) of white, and I begin to crave warmth and color.

yaya said...

I used to love Winter...but I think as I've grown older the cold and hardness just grates on my nerves! If I were outside more playing instead of shoveling maybe it would be better! I try and fill in these months with indoor projects around the house to distract me. It's hard when the sun goes down so early and I just want to hibernate. Maybe I should think of myself as one of those plants that are kept in the dark for 6wks and then they are brought out to the light and bloom!

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

You're right, you don't want to completely immerse yourself in the future so that you miss the gifts and truths of the present. On the other hand, it's good to be able to remember that the cold and darkness is temporary. And getting out to experience whatever the day brings--that is a survival technique, too. I'd try it, but the wind chill at this moment is minus 28. So my "outdoor" treat for the day is your account of seeing the eagles. And it's a thrill, even at this distance, so thank you!

Linda Myers said...

Times of darkness can be a good place to incubate, to think about the past and the future.

On the other hand, I have the freedom to live elsewhere during the dark months. I am a coward.

Linda Reeder said...

I have found that when I was so completely absorbed as to not notice the passing time, in retrospect I felt I had missed something. You can think and plan for the future, but still take those walks and have those thoughts that allow for noticing eagles, and swelling pussy willow buds and ice patterns in puddles.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

A once January arrives I'm fine because each dat gets longer. My worst time is always November near the mid to end! It pulls me down a lot!
How lucky to be able to spot an eagle!
May you find the light to keep on heading forward .

kario said...

I love your honesty and willingness to keep asking the questions. I hope that you find a peaceful way to sit with the darkness of winter and examine its gifts. I suspect the solution involves stillness, in all its discomfort.


Richard Hughes said...

Since I've retired, time has slowed just a bit. I'm not longing for vacation, looking forward to doing something I enjoy rather than doing something I don't. My days are filled now with a little of both. Being able to do at least a little of what I like everyday, without squeezing it into the day, is a big help.

Terri Tiffany said...

I so agree with you about Jan and Feb. When we moved back from Florida I knew what I would face--or so I thought.It is cold and dark but I have to find the good in it for I believe I am to be here. And yes we have to live today.

Anonymous said...

As a child, I remember the class being asked to make a calendar to take home to our parents. The calendar was to be in the form of a clock, its two hands pointing to each of the 12 months and to the season. The clock was divided into four segments to mark the seasons and we used old Christmas cards and magazine pictures to illustrate each. The more glitter for Winter the better! I often wonder if my love for each season, both darkness and light, comes from that calendar. I certainly picture the seasons and the months like a clock in my head and love the way we come full circle. So, I thank my primary school teacher who gave that gift to me. :-)

DJan said...

In less than four weeks I will be in Florida visiting my sister. It's what I do to break up the monotony of the dark days of January and February. Looking forward to that event is enough to make me smile. I love your ruminations about winter, how to make it through without missing too much of the present moment. I've been reading a lot of books, my own way to escape.

Deb Cushman said...

I actually enjoy January and most of February because they are a time of rest. After the hectic holidays, I can finally take time to breathe. But, by the end of February I'm ready for a renewal. That's when I need to force myself out of bed in the morning. I have a new grandchild to look forward to in June. Maybe I can use that as my inspiration! Thanks for the reflective words, Deb.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Winter blues do tend to alter our perspectives. I lived in the cold for the first 32 years of my life. Now 15 years in the south. It has eliminated much of those blues the long winter brought me. However, I've adapted to the type of winter we have here now. Even though the sun shines often, I yearn to walk outside barefoot, the concrete warm under my feet. I"m ready for summer.

Planning a trip. Good idea. Think I'll do that myself. Thinking it is up near you - that Victoria/Vancouver trip we had to cancel years ago as it was scheduled during 9/11. (See, now I plan my trip to escape the summer's heat.)