Meet Amma Winter. Amma is the title given to those sage women who lived in the desert in the 3rd century offering their wisdom to seekers. They lived in harsh and barren landscapes and so were intimate with the wilderness of the soul. Winter is a rescue, she entered our lives last week and has been slowly settling into the rhythm of life here at the Abbey. She has a heartbreaking story. She was abandoned with some other dogs on a farm and left to freeze to death. When the rescuers arrived she survived but her litter of puppies did not. Because of this she has trust issues with humans and was clearly abused. Yet, like most dogs, she really just wants a loving and safe space to call her own. My dogs have always been spiritual directors for me, wise guides and witnesses to the otherness of creation. Winter has already become an amma for me, offering her lessons in how to proceed slowly, to build trust, to begin healing a wounded heart.
We had to let our beloved Abbess Petunia go last November. We were going to wait longer to get another dog. But after my time in Vienna and being in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism – a frightening experience which deserves its own story another time – I sensed a deeper call in me to bring the gifts and challenges of the winter season to others. This has been a central part of my path for a while, but something shifted, broke open in a new way, and I discovered that inviting people into the wild and dark spaces of their lives with full presence is to be at the heart of what I do. I have long wanted to write a book called “A Midwinter God” about the what a winter spirituality looks like and the mystical tradition of unknowing. I knew I could resist this project no longer. Then I started to look online for a canine companion and quickly found Winter. Her name and her story called to me and I knew she was the Muse I was seeking.
It will take Winter time to grow in her sense of ease and to let her personality flower forth fully. I am honored to be a witness to this process. Welcome Winter. You are home now.