Winter Healing

When we were talking about the possibility of putting in my name for St. Clare’s rector search, at one point Myles stopped and sighed: “If we end up there, we’d go through all of California’s fire season, and then get to Michigan just in time for all of winter.” And that’s exactly what happened!

Even though I had grown up in winter, I have found that I’ve forgotten a few of its less pleasant details, like how the wind makes your eyeballs hurt, or just how long it takes to scrape frost off your car. But I had also forgotten some of its charms: how beautiful the ice on the branches is, or how nice it feels to walk into a warm house after a cold walk.

And I’d forgotten some of the spiritual invitations of cold, Midwestern winter too. The invitation to rest in the longer, darker evenings, and to travel slowly over the icy ground. The unavoidable cold reminding you to take care of your body. The reminder that even things that look dead, like trees without leaves, actually still hold life within them, that if you wait long enough, spring does always come around again.

I have been thinking about what kind of healing might be especially present in listening to these winter invitations. Rest is a crucial part of healing, especially for those of us who have been burning the candle at both ends during this stressful pandemic time. What can clear away or lie fallow for a season so we can rest? What are our bodies telling us that we need? What are we hoping for? What signs can we watch for that new life is coming as spring emerges?

I hope there’s something generative for you in those questions. I found this excerpt from Mary Oliver’s poem “Six Recognitions of our Lord” (from her work Thirst) to be helpful in reflecting on this theme of healing and listening as well, and I hope you might find it so as well.

Of course I have always known you
are present in the clouds, and the
black oak I especially adore, and the
wings of birds. But you are present
too in the body, listening to the body,
teaching it to live, instead of all
that touching, with disembodied joy.
We do not do this easily. We have
lived so long in the heavens of touch,
and we maintain our mutability, our
physicality, even as we begin to
apprehend the other world. Slowly we
make our appreciative response.
Slowly appreciation swells to
astonishment. And we enter the dialogue
of our lives that is beyond all under-
standing or conclusion. It is mystery,
It is love of God. It is obedience.

Oh, feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with
the fragrance of the fields and the
freshness of the oceans which you have
made, and help me to hear and to hold
in all dearness those exacting and wonderful
words of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying:
Follow me.