Visit the Abbey of the Arts online retreat platform to access your programs:

The Gifts of Winter

My creation

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.

You might also enjoy

Monk in the World Guest Post: Kate Kennington Steer

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Kate Kennington Steer’s reflection Heart of Stone. I arrived at February 2023 in a post-viral fatigue fug, feeling beset by depression, with

Read More »

Soul of a Pilgrim Video Podcast Day 2

Blessing for Packing Lightly*Winnowing God, you ask us to release, let go, surrender, and yield all that we canin service of making space for what is most essential. The more we set aside that which burdens us and takes up too much spacethe more room

Read More »

Monk in the World Guest Post: Mary Camille Thomas

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Mary Camille Thomas’s reflection Sitting in Paradise. “Sit in your cell as in paradise,” St. Romuald says in his brief rule for

Read More »

13 Responses

  1. I was dawn to your website after a lovely day of recollection with Claire Ronzani, in particular wanting more info on Lectio Divina. I loved your pictures and story about Amma Winter. God’s creation is bursting with the animals of love…but the dog is his greatest gift. My Meko, also the bearer of a very sad life, has come home to me and lives peacefully with us filling our days with joy!

  2. What a beautiful story. I’m so happy for both Winter and you. She is beautiful and has such a fitting name with the white coat she wears. I am reminded of my doxie – she is 13.5 years old – winters are difficult for her. She is such a great part of my life; I enjoy snuggling with her in front of the fire on cold days; she finds joy in the heat of summer when I seek shelter in the cool.