And now let us welcome the New Year
Full of things that have never been
Rainer Maria Rilke
The pace of life has slowed to a crawl. Winter, the season of hibernation and repose for all living things has arrived. It is the time of the long winter’s nap - an enigma of a season. Will it be mild and mellow or cold and cruel? How long will it last? Eagerly, we look forward to February, hoping the groundhog will predict a short winter, but knowing all the while that some of our worst winter storms come as late as mid-March.
The change of seasons is like opening the next chapter of a really good book. The Ojibwa tell a legend of the gentle transition from winter to spring that is also a metaphor for the seasons and cycles of life. The Spirit of Winter was an old man, similar to Old Man Winter in popular culture. He was a seasoned and weathered elder, with locks of white hair and a long beard. As the end of his seasonal responsibilities neared, his bluster and icy breath were stilled by his tiredness.
As embers of the fire in his hearth dimly glowed, the Spirit of Spring, a handsome young man wearing a wreath of green in his sun-colored hair, entered the lodge. His movements were quick and light, and his eyes sparkled with the promise of the future.
The two spirits decided to tell each other about their adventures and accomplishments. In a slow voice, the Spirit of Winter told how the streams stopped when they felt his breath and how the snow covered the land when he shook his long locks. The leaves of the trees disappeared whenever he exhaled.
The Spirit of Spring boasted that when he shook his golden curls, the warm rain fell and the flowers and grasses began to grow. His breath warmed the streams and melted away winter’s ice and snow. Birds gathered at the sound of his voice.
As the generations shared their stories, a subtle, quiet change took place. The sun began to rise and a gentle wind to blow. As they grew stronger, the Spirit of Winter grew weaker and slowly dissolved into small trickles and tears of water that sank into the welcoming earth. As the Spirit of Winter grew weaker, the Spirit of Spring grew stronger and rose to his full height to greet the first birds, blossoms, and children of spring.
Winters seldom leave so gently. Instead, we are teased by several false springs before we can trust that Old Man Winter has shouted his last “Hurrah.”
Through the long winter’s nap, the neutral tones of the landscape reflect the muted energy of life as we muse, ponder and wait for the exuberance and growth of spring to return. While many people escape to the tropics, hibernate like our wise friends the animals or even consider winter a season of dismal discontent, why not appreciate the singular beauty of the season with Thoreau’s advice:
Live in each season as it passes;
breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit
and resign yourself to the influences of each.
Let them be your only diet, drink and botanical medicine.