Some of us have a negative view of winter. We see it as a season of cold that disrupts our routine and puts a damper on our fun. Have you ever noticed how some of the weather people speak about winter? They say we will be attacked by a cold front. Or we should prepare ourselves for the invasion of arctic air from Canada. One meteorologist even said that the winter storm is going to deliver a blow to the country’s midsection. Poor winter! It needs a public relations agency to give it a more positive image!
But I recently came across a website that calls winter, “the most misunderstood season of all.” The author addresses his words to people (like me) who live in places where winter is characterized by ice, snow, and freezing temperatures. His intent, it seems, is to remind us of some of the beauties of the season.
He says, for example, that winter is “a beautiful season of intimacy and reflection (that) gives us the opportunity to stay inside and look inside.” He quotes individuals who appreciate winter. One person is the artist Andrew Wyeth who said, “I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape—the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”
I know what he means. When I gaze at the frozen world outside it is easy to believe that everything is dead. But experience tells me the trees are dormant, not dead. Their life-sustaining sap is simply being stored in their roots and will rise again in spring. And the bulbs buried beneath the snow will one day sprout green shoots that will break out into brightly colored tulips and daffodils and hyacinths. And all those insect eggs tucked beneath the bark of a tree or under the brown leaves on the forest floor—they too will come to life again. Winter for me has always been the season of hope. You have hope in your heart despite the cold, dark evidence outside.
Another beauty of winter is the gently falling snow. I like what Andrienne Ivey wrote about snow: “Everything is equal in snow: all trees, all lawns, all streets, all rooftops, all cars. Everything is white, white, white, as far as you can see.” The manicured lawns and the neglected lawns look the same after a snowfall. So do the new car and the old jalopy. “Everything looks clean and fresh and unmarred by time or use. Snow…is a great leveler.”
I also appreciate the quiet of a winter landscape. Snow muffles sound. The cars on the street make less noise. The windows are all shut so you hear less noise from the outside. Snow also mutes color in winter. There are no bright flowers to break the vast whiteness. That’s why, when color does chance by in winter, it stops us in our tracks. Is there anything more breathtaking than to spot a bright red cardinal flitting between the branches of a naked tree?
And finally, winter in the natural world teaches us how to live the winters of the spiritual world. This concept is expressed beautifully in the words of Sister Joan Chittister, OSB:
“Winter is a lesson about the fine art of loss and growth. Its lesson is clear: There is only one way out of struggle, and that is by going into the darkness, waiting for the light, and being open to new growth.”
What do you like or dislike about winter? Do you see any beauty in winter?
Our song today is “Winter Snow” written by Chris Tomlin and sung here by Audrey Assad. The song reminds us that in the Incarnation God came like a winter snow…
Is there anything you’d like to share about winter, about this reflection, or the song?
PS: Here are a few of my upcoming speaking engagements. For more information, check the websites of the retreat center or parish:
March 11, 2017 – St. Christopher Parish – Rocky River, OH
9:30 – 3:00: “The Spirituality of Hope”
March 25, 2017 – St. Cyril and Methodius Spiritual Center – Danville, PA
9:00 to noon: “Four Traits of a Healthy Spirituality: wonder, friendship, courage, hope”
April 7-9 – Franciscan Spiritual Center – Aston, PA
Weekend retreat: Fri. 7:00 pm to Sun. 11:00 am: “The Spirituality of Christian Hope”
April 29, 2017 – Norbertine Center for Spirituality – De Pere, Wisconsin
8:30 – noon: “How Do I Know If I’m on the Right Path Spiritually?
June 18-24, 2017 – St. Mary of the Pines – Chatawa, Mississippi
Week long retreat: “Holiness Is Wholeness”
July 7-14, 2017 – Villa Maria Del Mar – Santa Cruz, California
Week long retreat: “Everyday Epiphanies: Finding God in Every Nook and Cranny”