I was walking my dogs on a familiar path. We had come here many times and passed by the same trees, now glistening with winter white snow. Things look different in winter. I notice things I never saw in the lush fullness of summer. Like the bird nest.
Its dark round shape contrasted with the huge dollop of snow mounded on top of it. I admired its simple beauty nestled amidst the starkness of winter. The image stayed in my mind for days until it occurred to me that were it not for the starkness we Michigan folk so often dread, I would not have experienced the beauty of the nest.
Winters are rough here. There are few natural distractions to keep us from noticing the many shades of winter gray, both internal and external. I believe that the outer reflects the inner and for that reason, almost feel sorry (abet envious) of those who flee to the south for more consistent weather and moods. It is our tendency to fight change, to resist the seasons of our days and lives. We think we should be a certain way all the time. And we’re not. Nothing is. Nature teaches us that seasons are natural and change is constant – one in preparation for the other. To resist the winter starkness and not acknowledge its inner presence is a tremendous loss on the path of human growth and spiritual wisdom.
Those of us who stay have to find some way of being with it. So we take a little more time getting going, honoring the natural desire to hibernate in winter. We watch the snow fall and with it ancient memories gently float through our awareness. Things we had never thought about since childhood.
We allow the stark places to emerge within us and stay with the feelings we had so often distracted ourselves from. Like the empty nest covered with snow, so visible in the starkness of winter, grief, loss, emptiness, loneliness, and sadness emerge to match the outer landscape. We allow ourselves to feel whatever is present and like the changing of seasons, we experience our own unfolding.
The place that seemed so frightfully empty is the very place we reconnect to ourselves and to the Mystery we call God. Our grief and loss acknowledged and felt, we notice a transformed sense of the presence of those we love and can no longer hold. We are not the same. We never will be. Nature is not the same. And if we are honest, we will acknowledge that we don’t want to be the same. And we don’t want to miss the healing, cleansing starkness of winter, revealing nature’s secret nesting places in the far reaches of our hearts.