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Reflections on the Darkest & Coldest Time of Year

By Naomi Westwater

February 9, 2021

It’s 12º, feels like -4º with the windchill. I'm on hold with my doctor's office as I write this. I've been on hold, in silence, for 10 minutes. I am trying to lean into this hold, into this moment where time is slow and stretching on and on — into the waiting. For this is the message of winter: slow, dark days for reflection.

Winter is a season we easily get lost in, and yet, if we listen, if we take notice, little changes are happening. The wheel is still turning. Life is dormant, but still living. February 2nd is Candlemas, known as Imbolc in Pagan traditions, and it marks the halfway point from winter to spring. So, as we reach midwinter, I find myself remembering winter’s message of rest.

Rest has been nearly impossible this year. Yes, some of us have had lots of down time, alone time, but not necessarily rest. For me, rest means long stretches of time without answering a single email or scrolling through any app. Rest is going to bed early, so I may wake with the sun. Rest is trying to mull over thoughts and ideas; it’s the luxury of introspection.

Rest is where we can make space for our grieving, for there is so much to grieve now. Rest is taking time to do simply nothing but connecting with our breath and remembering that we are still alive.

Winter brings darkness, and most of us New Englanders resent this. But the cold and isolation are actually very necessary for us. We are supposed to be sleeping now, consuming less, conserving our energy and our fat. Winter is not cold and dark to be an inconvenience to us, it is cold and dark so that we are forced to do nothing. We should be preserving our energy, fixing holes in our sweaters, and writing poems. We should be deep in some safe cave, hibernating, telling stories by fireside. Winter is rich with traditions of caretaking and storytelling that we have forgotten.

And when we forget to hibernate, we risk exhausting ourselves all year. When we forget to tell our stories, we risk connecting with each other, we risk taking time to process and understand the world. Winter is an invitation of do-nothing-ness that our culture so rejects. But resting is not nothing.

Watch, see how the plants and the trees rest now. They are not being lazy, they are getting ready to burst open in the spring. Watch, see how the other animals sleep now, close to their families, and so that come March they will be full of energy. Watch, see how the light is slowly returning, every morning the sun comes a minute earlier, every day is a moment longer, and every moment a promise, the light always returns, the cold always thaws.

So, if you are able, let this season hold you in silence. To turn off your electronics often, respond to your emails late, light lots of candles and read many books. Winter has much to teach us, when we settle in and accept the wait.


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