Today was the coldest day of winter: currently it is 2F and heading towards -11F (with a
wind chill factor of 35 degrees below zero.) It hurts to go outside. And when outside, it hurts to breathe. So as part of my on-going quest to learn something about an organic spirituality from the first word of God in creation - nature - I've been listening to what this season seems to be saying to me.
+ First, this is a time to be intentional rather than haphazard. I must be prepared to go outside and there is nothing casual about even getting the mail. This is not a time for wandering or exploring. It is about taking stock of what is essential and attending to it with care.
+ Second, it is a time for nourishing radical but selective hospitality. There are some people who must not venture out in weather like this - but I can go to them. So this would seem to be a season for reaching out to the most vulnerable and not fretting about those who can care for themselves.
+ Third, winter in this part of the world is dark. It is quiet. That suggests that winter spirituality includes a measure of solitude rather than community-building. To every thing there is a season and this feels like a time to be silent. Private. More engaged in reflection and candle-light than activism.
+ Fourth, this is a time for simmering and percolation not birthing and renewal. It is a time for waiting and watching - like Advent - but also pondering "all these things" in our heart like Mary watching Jesus mature. It is a time of stark beauty that requires contemplation.
Buechner asks that as winter unfolds, we ask ourselves some challenging and clarifying questions that seem to embrace the truth of a winter spirituality:
Have you wept at anything during this past year? Has y our heart beat faster at the sight of young beauty? Have you thought seriously about the fact that someday you are going to die? More often than not do you really listen when people are speaking to you instead of waiting for your own turn to speak? Is there anybody you know in whose place, if one of you had to suffer great pain, you would volunteer yourself? If your answer to all or most of these questions is NO, the chances are you are already dead.
+ And fifth (as a couple of dear friends have reminded me) there is also a unique way of being outside during the winter. It can't happen every day; it takes preparation, too. But the night sky is clear and stunning during the winter. And being out in the woods on snow shoes is a type of contemplation unparalleled .
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