The seasonal shifts of the North come with a conversation. A back and forth rhythm when temperatures vacillate from one side of zero and the other. Residents respond with their own rhythm of sweatshirts, jackets, parkas, with the final addition of thermal underwear and other such cold-surviving accessories. Spring sends this fashion into reverse. We have made the shift from fall to winter, and it has come fast, furious and far too early for me. And, it has certainly arrived with a conversation on its mind.
The day started with snow, then warmed to rain, which cooled to sleet and eventually turned back to warm, wet snow. The back edge of the storm finished off with strong winds. When snow arrives during warmer temperatures, it is heavy and sticks to everything. The entire world looks like a winter wonderland. It is stunning.
After the storm finished dropping several inches onto the landscape, I took the dogs for a walk. My little world was covered with a blanket of thick bright, white snow, it was breathtaking. I noticed something odd in the woods – a strong horizontal line in the trees where the snow covering stopped abruptly. The wind had completely blown the tree tops clean. Everything below the line looked like a Dr. Seuss illustration, everything above the wind line was stark and icy. For as amazing as it was to note, I realized I was disappointed because I wanted it to all be beautiful – at least for a time. What I didn’t see immediately was the revealed residual ice, coating the tree tops, glimmering in the morning sun.
We have a similar conversation within us. There are parts of life that are beautiful; clean and bright, they look like visual poetry. Other elements are stark, dark or completely frozen and unmoving. This is the conversation that is in us. It comes with the challenge to hold tension between the two. Joy and sadness, delight and despair, warmth and chill – all together in each one of us. I admit there are times where I just want it all to be beautiful and I can forget that starkness has its own beauty.
We see the joy, delight and warmth; a lived sense of good will all around us. And we experience the sadness, despair and chill. The challenge is to learn to hold all of these together, in one body. We can feel joy and sadness or delight and despair, together. One does not have to take away from the other. We do not need to silence one, for the sake of the other, rather we can allow the two to speak to one another. Sadness has wisdom to speak into joy. Delight can buoy despair. When we silence one, we miss the fullness of the other. There is a conversation between the two, and to fully embrace ourselves, we must fully embrace the snow and the ice that storms into our life.
The barren top branches of the trees were as beautiful as those that were snow laden. The ice sparkled in the sun, creating a reminder of how complex our stories are; some parts of us hold stories of ice and cold, while other stories contain warmth and light. And all of these things we hold within us. All are part of us, none less important than the other, both equally vital to the conversation of our soul.
So, as you walk your road, watch for the warmth and chill, dark and light that you carry. Listen. Listen deeply as the elements that seem so contrary to one another converse. Embrace all of who you are. The parts you understand or enjoy, and those that are befuddling or scary. Because, as you learn to do this, you will hear the fullness of who you are.
This season, give a gift you yourself. Embrace all of you.