Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Sweet Heart of Winter

Winter Monks 20"x24" acrylic and collage

It could be the winter of our discontent -- or not.  Brutal temperatures and storms are blasting their way across the landscape. The weather has gone mad in many places. Here on the west coast of Canada, I am really ineligible to comment on the weather lest you bombard me with snow balls and sharp icicles.

But winter still exists here in lotus land, with it's grey, foggy days, shortened by how the sun brushes by our tilted, blue sphere. Winter has its effect on sentient beings, whether we care to admit it or not, whether we choose to live in a big city and carry on a pace that hardly nods in the direction of the short, cold days or whether we batten down the hatches for winter. And for some reason unknown to me, this year I am embracing the full heart of winter as it exists here. Sharon Zappha Barfoot wrote about her experience of winter in a much snowier place here.  And wherever you live the question seems to me, do we resist what is or do we somehow enter into it? Do we acknowledge our place in the natural world or do we live in separation from it? Do we try to make light out of dark, in either our inner or outer worlds? These are the bigger questions for me?  To what lengths will we go to sustain our delusion? Where do we shine the flashlight of our awareness?

Before winter's weathery course was set, something in me knew I was going to savour hibernation this year. Other years I have tried, but ended up doing a lot of grumbling about the darkness and feeling lonely and hurumphing that this year I might go away for a bit. But as I watched others plan their holidays and listened to stories of winter getaways to come nothing was tempted in me.  No beaches called to me, no warm breezes beckoned, no spots on the map flashed hotly, come here. Instead like a dozy black bear I slowed my pace and prepared for the delicious decent into hibernation. My cave is warmed by a fire, the lair offers all manner of comforts. And the internal world has many hillsides, rock walls to scale and tumultuous oceans to explore. I am never bored.

16"x20" Oil & Cold Wax  "Tracking"

It is interesting to watch the slowed call to activity.  I have become some lumbering creature of the earth. The slowness of the day sometimes feels shocking to me. How could I get so little done? And yet I seem powerless against this feet in molasses feeling, like I am some small creature ruled by a masterful force. There is a gentle joy to it. I am simply surprised how appropriate it feels, how it seems to be calling me to some deeper state.  There is a feeling that there is purpose and a reason for this, that there is some strange call to a landscape deep within.

There is lots of time for meditation and here's one of my favourite guided meditations. It's called Nourishing Your Inner Being and that feels like that's what this winter is about, offering internal nourishment that will support more active times.  This is my winter project if I need to give it a name.  And in nourishing this inner being there is a feeling that I am nourishing all parts of my life: the inner life, the spirit, my art and writing life, and my physical body; that when the winter earth thaws and the days lengthen there will be a natural movement into the next season.

I realize I am fortunate to have the time to live in harmony with this season, to sleep late, to be still, to do less. Even here where the animals of the woods don't hibernate, they slow. We see the deer and the squirrels less often, the birds are less busy. Only the tiny hummingbird keeps up its frantic pace. Living close to the natural world reminds me on a daily basis of how the planet sustains itself, cycling back and forth to create balance.

And so that is where you'll find me these days, meditating by the fire, contemplating and reading, sipping tea, painting a little and residing in the deep heart of winter.  No matter what your circumstances I invite you in ways large or small to join me in tasting the sweetness of winter. It's about creating a different story around the real or imagined winter life, or perhaps creating no story at all?