Saturday, March 17, 2018

a severe beauty...

Dear friends who live elsewhere, you may not believe that it is St. Patrick's Day in the Berkshires, but this is what part of our back porch looks like! Such are the brutal vicissitudes on New England in March amidst the realities of climate change. It is still lovely and with the sun shining right now, it evokes a severe beauty. Martin Marty once wrote an insightful little book, A Cry of Absence: Reflections for the Winter of the Heart.  It has been called "a cri du coeur: painful, eloquent Christian meditations on the dark side of existence."

One of the things that Marty and those who affirm the spirituality of winter understand is that "even the cry from the depths is an affirmation: Why cry if there is no hint of hope of hearing?" Rumi writes of the dog that wails for her master noting that the absence and howling is proof of a love beyond what is obvious. Winter spirituality, as I have come to experience it again after a decade in the desert Southwest, is more about stillness, solitude and solidarity than anything else.

All is still now. Dwellers in snow country remark how after winter thunder and a blowing storm, silence can pall the snowscape. Poets call this preternatural, because it seems to exist eerily beyond nature. No bird song, no whistle in the wind, no crackle of a twig interrupts the quiet. Plants are at rest, as are households. Often that means all is well. Souls seeking escape from the tumult of business and busy people welcome such hours and occasions. (Marty)

In their Practicing Spirituality website (http://www.spirituality andpractice.com/practices/features/view/20552/practicing-spirituality-in-winter) Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat offer a host of other practices that help nourish the wisdom of winter. They write that a winter spirituality calls us to celebrate our interdependence on one another.

Winter is a season of the year when we feel most vulnerable and fragile in the face of Mother Nature's power in storms and low temperatures. Often, too, we feel isolated, in need of friends and family. An important spiritual practice is to acknowledge and receive what others give us with great gratitude. Here are some ways to do this: Make a practice of consciously acknowledging your vulnerability and dependence upon others. For example, think about all the service providers who make it possible for us to ride in elevators, make phone calls, read a book at night in a lighted room, have food or supplies delivered, or have the roads plowed. Too often, we take this support for granted.

The last time Dianne and I were in Ottawa, we found ourselves trapped in a mud rut during the freezing rain. Try as we might, we could not rock the car out of the muck. In about 15 minutes, however, two young men came from different directions, realized our plight, uncovered their rock salt and helped us push the vehicle into freedom. We needed them - and rejoiced in their generosity. As tired as I am this year of the snow - and there's more to come next week or so I'm told - I give thanks this day for the wisdom of winter. It is an existential encounter with the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

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