Doing winter naked
Even in warm sunny México, winter is real. Though our little town is bustling-full of people and activities in peak tourist season I am not alone in declining invitations because energy is low and internal. Though we live just ten minutes from the Tropic of Cancer (a relative hop-skip-and-jump from the equator) I’ve been observing how the energy of the natural world descended through the fall months and quieted into the stillness of winter, drawing those of us who live here into varying degrees of hibernation even though the days are warm.
Winter is essential. Time for rest. Time for dreaming. Time for incubating what will be born in the spring. Winter is a good thing. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Personally, I love December. December is deep and can be magical. The sacred time of winter Solstice + the magic of the holiday season is a special combo. I savor reflecting on the year, listening for what’s to come, and gathering with loved ones for the festivities. But January is hard. January is the difficult stretch between the sparkle of December and the new life of spring. In February you get crocuses and hints of inspiration. But January is long, dark, and frozen. Even if your body is warm. Even in a sub-tropical desert paradise.
This year I’ve been marveling that not only did a pope manage to convince the world that January is the time of new beginnings, but for 441 years humanity has gone along with his madness. January is anything but a new beginning.
January is a long slog of being with the discomfort of whatever is dark and frozen and hard. For me it tends to be a time of facing what’s old more than greeting what’s new. Mid-winter is an essential and challenging journey made more physically comfortable by modern conveniences but more mentally-emotionally difficult by a culture that tells us to operate as though we’re in a perpetual summer of energetic activity, high productivity, and outward orientation. We’re not.
For the past week I’ve been remembering the first poem I ever wrote. (That is, unless you count the unrequited love poems I wrote for Ms. Brinkman’s creative writing class in approximately 1992. Technically, my very first poem was about my high school crush on a sweet-natured football player with whom I probably exchanged a total of 5 sentences in all of high school. 🙃)
But in 2002 Poetry started coming to me in the months before my entire life changed (you can read a story here: about recovering from losing one’s religion). That fall-to-winter I had no idea what was coming but my soul did, and it started showing up as poetry. At the time I worked on staff at my church where my office looked out on grassy grounds and a mountain ash sapling. It really struck me that the young tree was laden with fruit but otherwise naked as we descended into a cold, wet Oregon winter. I wish I could show you a picture of that skinny tree looking so vulnerable without its leaves yet also wildly brilliant with a load of bright red berries. I did find this one on the internet though, to give you idea:
I saw myself in that tree. Maybe you can too, being that it’s January. There are seasons of our lives that are like this—where we offer what we have and yet life strips us bare just as we head into rough weather. For us humans it generally feels scary as hell and exhausting. Trees are wiser though. They know how transformation works. And they can be good company if you’re in one.
Listen to Winter Ash:
I believe poetry is a song that is meant to be heard as well as read. A journey for the senses, not just the mind. I invite you to experience me reading this one to you.
Winter Ash Robins don’t go about in flocks but here are six in this tender tree, tall as me and even thinner yet laden with brilliant red berries. Feasting done, the tree stands stripped, hugging its steel stake against the rush of mountain weather. The ash has given all. If I were tree, it would not be my choice to go naked into winter harshness, pared down to nothing but the will to stand till spring. Still, this is our season. To wait, exposed, while the elements demand so much. And come wild wind, trees stay wise, surviving. —Kai Madrone November 2002
We’re almost to February, friend. If January has been long, you’re not alone. If you’d rather not feel vulnerable, you’re not alone. If you’re being disassembled and prepared for something new, you’re not alone. And. Spring. 🌷 Is. Coming.
P.S. If you’re inspired by natural cycles and seasons and curious about how to live in harmony with them, I highly recommend following my mentor, Ro Marlen.
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I love this. I was just realizing that I was trying to rush forward too soon and this is a good reminder I need to keep still and replenish a little longer. MWAH!
Lovely musings. Great first poem!!!!! 💕
Enjoy that warmth for us! It was -4 yesterday!!