A major obstacle to creativity is wanting to be in the peak season of growth and generation at all times . . . but if we see the soul's journey as cyclical, like the seasons . . . then we can accept the reality that periods of despair or fallowness are like winter – a resting time that offers us a period of creative hibernation, purification, and regeneration that prepare us for the births of spring.
—Linda Leonard, The Call to Create
Dearest monks and artists,
This reflection is excerpted from our Sacred Seasons online retreat for the Celtic Wheel of the Year:
The Winter Solstice is another profound moment of pause and turning in the great cycle of the year. In Galway our apartment windows face east and south, so one of the great gifts I experience through the seasons is watching the sun make her pilgrimage across the horizon from summer solstice to winter solstice. It is quite a long journey, and on December 21st she will rest at her point furthest south, appearing to stand still for three days before making the return journey again in the long walk toward summer. It is a rhythm of journey, pause, and return, again and again. It reminds me a great deal of walking a labyrinth and the way I follow the path inward, pause and receive the gifts at the center, and then begin to move more fully out into the world carrying the light that is growing.
I love winter, especially Irish winters which are so rainy and grey, so conducive to lighting candles and making a cup of tea. I adore the bare branches that reach up to the sky, their stark beauty, the way they reveal the basics. I love the quietness of winter, fewer people outside.
Linda Leonard's quote above speaks right to the heart of the gift of honoring the seasons. When we recognize that spring and summer always lead to autumn and winter, in our own lives we will perhaps resist the times of releasing and resting that come to us.
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
This poem speaks to me most pointedly about what embracing the darkness means. It does not mean carrying a light into the dark, it means walking right into the darkness and exploring its landscape so that our other senses become heightened and attuned to the sound of seeds jostling deep beneath the black soil, to hear the slow in and out breath of animals in hibernation, to feel our own heartbeats and the heartbeats of those we love, to experience the pulsing of womb-sounds within us just before the water gets ready to break.
Winter invites me to rest and contemplation, to making time for quiet walks in the few hours of light. The God of winter invites me into a healing rhythm of rest and renewal, of deep listening in the midst of stillness, of trusting the seeds sprouting deep within that have been planted. There is a harshness to this winter God as well, winter speaks to me of loss, it is the landscape of my grief in all its beauty and sorrow.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner