I have never lived even a single year of my life in a place that does not experience winter with snow and cold. The dramatic seasonal cycle of death and rebirth the way we experience it in the northern U.S. feels written into the code of my existence, and I cycle with it in everything from mood and focus to the way I feel my weight on the earth.
It is easier to sing the praises of spring as she sprouts new life, the sun-kissed days of summer, or the golden autumn harvest, than to raise a hymn to winter. But that may be exactly the point of the season of death. We must look harder to see the beauty in the austerity of bare branches and fallow fields. And only when we risk throwing open our coats do we learn that our hearts can stay warm even in the coldest conditions.
Summer is glorious, as we are effortlessly warmed and expanded, softened by the season itself. But sometime during July or August, I begin to feel a little smudgy and start anticipating the sharper focus that comes with the angular light of autumn. I welcome the contraction into winter, the need to light candles against the darkness and look inward. Inevitably, the external barrenness is sometimes reflected there.
If I have made enough peace with winter to see her beauty, I can do the same with my internal landscape—carry a lamp around in the darkness of it and say, Oh, you are here to my least favorite emotions with acceptance rather than resistance. On the best days, I can see purpose and purification, as I do in the snow cover. I am willing to take the ice and slush that come with the transformative snow, and there is at least one snowfall every winter so breathtaking it makes me want to stop time, suspend the changing of seasons, and stay.