Monk in the World Guest Post: Nancy L. Agneberg

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Nancy L. Agneberg’s reflection on entitled Winter Spirituality.

I love winter.

I prefer winter to summer and spring.

When it is fall, I think fall is my favorite season, but then winter comes, and I know, for sure, winter is my favorite season.

Oh, I am willing to join in with the usual February and March conversations about winter being far too long and will spring ever arrive? As I listen to the whining about the cold, the snow, the dark, I politely nod my head in agreement. 

“I know, I know,” I say. “Isn’t it awful?”

Once at a retreat the ice breaker activity centered on the question, “What’s your favorite season?” The floor was divided into four quadrants labeled winter, spring, summer, fall. One by one each participant stood in her preferred season, giving her reason for choosing that season.

“I love the new growth, the beauty of spring flowers.”

“I love the freedom of summer, being able to be outside all the time. 

“I love the fall colors and wearing a sweater again.”

While I wasn’t quite alone in the winter square, there weren’t many of us, but we seemed to share the same sensibility.

“I love the feeling of being tucked in.”

“I love the peace and quiet when it snows.”

“Winter feels more spacious to me, more time to be with myself.”

Yes, that is it.

I welcome the coming of winter. Cave Time. Sabbath Time. A time not only to hibernate and rest, but a time to grow and deepen. 

On dark winter mornings when I go upstairs to my garret office, I stand, just for a moment, in the glow of my desk lamp’s circle of light. That one light reminds to me to stay quiet, to listen to the inner promptings. In this focused circle of light I meditate and pray. I write. I read. I sit in silence. Here there is shelter for deep conversations and connection. Here I am reminded of my own inner light, even in moments of darkness. 

With a shawl wrapped around my shoulders I delight in doing the next thing, often feeling productive and creative. Or I choose to do nothing. Either way is a choice of contentment. Winter’s uncluttered, unlittered nature moves me patiently from day to day without surprise of color or blossom or smell of dirt. Instead I stop, I rest. I stretch slowly, deliberately, quietly, careful not to wake any other bears in my cave.

I love the bones of trees in the winter; the skeletons. The ability to see how a tree is made and how it reaches; its spread and girth and width. The bones, the basics, the dark against the grey sky. The shadows cast, the possibilities, the past, present, and the imagined future.

It I were a painter, winter trees would be my subject. From a distance I would paint a colony of trees, a naked community, like being at a nude beach. Up close I would paint every line and blemish and wrinkle and wart and age spot and acne scar. The signs of a life lived. They’ve earned their wrinkles, just as I have earned mine.

They have lived through many seasons, many years, known draught and deluge, the coldness of abandonment and neglect and the pressing heat of passion too close for comfort. I love the starkness, the lack of pretense, the startling beauty of trees in winter. The way they seem to say, “Look at me. This is who I am.” 

A winter tree looks either older than its years or younger than time and that is just the way I feel. I am a winter tree.

There is a certain clarity that comes with winter, a clarity I would like to discover in my own winter season of life. One can see forever, or at least it seems that way. And yet, we can’t quite see how or when exactly it will end. Winter asks us to let go of the need to know for sure. Winter reminds us to rest in the surprise of the present moment, but at the same time assures us that it will melt into another time. On its own time. Not ours. 

I value the harvest of fall, the energy of spring, the secure lingering of summer, but even more I covet the lairs of winter, the hidden passages, the unlit corridors, the streamlined views, the bareness of the horizon. The action coldly stopped, frozen without conscious time. I’ve done what I can all those other days and months and now it is time to leave what is undone and to unwind the sweater till once more it is yarn. It is sheep. It is essence.

Ah, this is it. Winter is essence and offers the time to recall, to re-call my own essence.

Nancy L. Agneberg, a writer and spiritual director, finds joy in helping others deepen their relationship to the Divine, the Sacred, the Holy, especially as one ages. Currently, Nancy is writing a spiritual memoir, which explores the spiritual invitations of living in different homes. She posts frequently on her blog, Clearing the Space.

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