We’re beginning to wake up, to emerge from the darkness of the literal winter, as well as the “wintering” we’ve had to endure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Not quite ready, though. nature needs us to be mindful and intentional about how quickly we emerge.
Just this morning, I saw another reminder on Facebook about not clearing out old leaves and dead-looking plant stems from our gardens until the temperature is consistently over 50 degrees. ‘Cause, who knew? butterflies and bees and other pollinators overwinter in those places.
If I clear out the dead-looking stuff in the garden too soon, some very important members of our ecosystem get lost in the process.
The same with beginning to re-emerge from the past pandemic hell year. A small percentage of folks have gotten fully vaccinated; many more have received their first shot. And millions have yet to get any.
Those who’ve received vaccinations must hold onto their impatience for freedom, and continue wearing good masks and socially distancing so that the rest of the human ecosystem can catch up.
As the literal winter is ending in the northern hemisphere, so too the metaphorical wintering caused by pandemic lockdowns. This metaphorical wintering is an energetic, emotional, and psychological wintering.
The idea comes from a beautiful book written by Katherine May, called Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times.
Here’s how she describes it:
“Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, side-lined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider. Perhaps it results from an illness or a life event such as a bereavement or the birth of a child; perhaps it comes from a humiliation or failure. Perhaps you’re in a period of transition and have temporarily fallen between two worlds. … . However it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful.”
Don’t you think it’s true that we’ve all been wintering? And that, while some of us may be emerging, many others are not.
We haven’t really begun to tally our losses, or to grieve what’s been lost — a statement that may be true for both our lives, as well as this pandemic year.
One of the things that helps me so much is being reminded of the beauty that’s everywhere. It’s something that Katherine’s book is rich with, both in her writing, as well as the things she writes about, such as a sleeping dormouse.
If you can, please read or listen to her book.
In the meantime, you can listen to Part 1 of the interview we did together (Part 2 airs next week).
We are in the midst of a collective transformation that affects each one of us. As Katherine writes:
“Transformation is the business of winter. In Gaelic mythology, the hag deity known as the Cailleach takes human form at Samhain to run the winter months, bring with her winds and wild weather. … . The Cailleach is thought to be the mother of the gods, the gruff, cold originator of all things. … . … The Cilleach offers us a cyclical metaphor for life, one in which the energies of spring arrive again and again, nurtured by the deep retreat of winter. We are no longer accustomed to thinking in this way. Instead we are in the habit of imagining our lives to be linear, a long march from birth to death in which we mass our powers, only to surrender them again, all the while slowly losing our youthful beauty. This is a brutal untruth.”
We can honor the cyclical nature of life — leave the garden looking scraggly until the hibernating pollinators are awake and getting on with it, wear a mask and social distance until everyone has gotten vaccines, and breathe into and be with our personal winterings.
In doing so, we’re alive to the great wonder of being human.
sadness, depression, illness, happiness, nature, mindfulness