“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” -W.B. Yeats
A few years ago, I dreamed of a very long, desolate winter. The cold and gloom felt almost claustrophobic. It went on and on, and there was no escaping its firm hold. It was a horrible feeling. I woke up from the dream and realized it was only October! Winter hadn’t even begun yet – and there was no escaping it. When I recall that dream, I still can feel the unpleasant sensation in my body.
But there is another way to travel through the heart of winter. A path of light.
When light is less abundant and your eyes grow accustomed to the relative darkness of winter, you can become attuned to the light so that you are able to notice even subtle shifts and not let a single beam of sunshine go unappreciated. You notice the moment when sunlight bursts through the clouds and how it interacts with the various elements of the natural world at just the right angle and fills them with vibrance. You notice the radiance in someone’s eyes. You are drawn to light and experience awe – a lot.
I realize many Northeasterners are getting very tired of winter. But because of winter (both literally and figuratively speaking), I have trained my eyes to find some form of beauty virtually every day. It’s both a survival strategy and my daily spiritual practice.
Last winter was the most challenging winter of my life, as my mother withered from an aggressive case of advaned pancreatic cancer. The beauty and grandeur of winter saved me every day. Because there was so much sadness and so many health emergencies to manage, I needed a healing connection with nature. It was as essential as the air I breathe. I walked alone and ecstatic through frozen, frost-covered landscapes, overcome by beauty and light. In the words of poet, Mary Oliver, “I got saved by the beauty of the world.”
We are about to enter an arctic blast of subzero temperatures, and I can’t wait to go outside and explore a frosty wonderland! I have my heart set on seeing and photographing golden sunlight shining through a frosted willow tree and wonder if I am close to experiencing that delight. Even if I’m not, it is something to look forward to. It keeps my eyes open and keeps me going!
Over the weekend, the icicles commanded my attention. They reminded me of the pipes of an organ – and when sunlight caressed them just right, oh, how they sang! I was enchanted by beaded snowflakes, too.
Every year, spring returns. But in the meantime, I try to find something to love every day – because there is something waiting to be noticed and appreciated every day. A gift. To find beauty in the dark, difficult places makes a difference. With gratitude, the journey takes on a whole new meaning. This is something I have learned through experience.
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