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Elan Vitae


  • Heather Doyle Fraser


It’s still cold outside, but I notice the burgeoning of spring every day on my walks. Shoots burst through the soil, defying the snow melt that still covers the grass in my yard. The greening of the grass comes later, but I see hints of it even now. The birdsong has begun to change as more birds come back from their southern migrations. I hear the familiar calls that I have missed in the past few months.

The thing is, even with these outward changes happening around me every day, I still feel like I am in a season of Wintering. This full-body experience craves cocooning and a gentleness as I cuddle into safeness, reconnect with myself, and redefine who I am. And, along with the redefining there is a remembering element as well.

Remembering what feeds and nurtures me.

Remembering what ignites my passion.

Remembering what lightness has the power to do.

The steely-gray skies and the absence of light in the past few months have made this season of Wintering I find myself in outwardly-acceptable. No one chastises me much when I want—no, need— to stay cozy in my soft cocoon of a home, cuddled up in blankets with a book. It’s cold and dark, and everyone seems to need a break from the bustle and busyness of the holidays. But what of the light that is glaring its way into my world, telling me it’s time to get moving? I feel its pull, but I also feel that I need more rest. I need more time to reside here in this season.

I’ve been reading Katherine May’s book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times during my season of Wintering, and I have to say that I am grateful for the commonality and humanity of this experience. And for the recognition that any time in our life can become a season of Wintering regardless of your geographical location or the time of year. It just so happens that my season of Wintering has actually coincided with the season in my geographic location.

What I found so interesting in May’s book was that as much as she was allowing her season of Wintering, she was still searching and grasping for the light, just as I am. My cadence is a slower one in this season, but it is one that is metered by self-reflection and exploration. There is an intensity to my Wintering, especially as it edges into a new season. It creates boundaries for me that I don’t want to lose as I allow more light and the change that comes with it.

The light won’t leave me alone—not that I want it to. I want to be caressed by the thoughts of change. This is something I’ve discovered in my season of Wintering. I want to feel the groundswell of energy that I know is coming. I want to share and collaborate and be with people in a way that feels exciting, supportive, and exuberant. I want to feel vibrant. In Wintering, though, I feel reticent. I feel boundaried. And that feels safer somehow. I feel can explore with a slowness that I have been enjoying even as I chastise myself for its cadence on the gray days that feel hard.

Have you ever sat cross-legged in the lone patch of light that settles on the floor in front of your door in the cold winter? I have such a patch of light (on the days when the sun is shining)—it comes into full warmth around 4 PM. I leave the front door open so that the glass storm door can let in the light but not all of the cold. I sit there—as many days as I can— taking a short break from my workday as I sunbathe in my cold weather clothes. The light is strong and yet somehow also dappled at the same time by the trees in front of my house. I close my eyes and soak in this warmth, remembering the feeling of the sun on my arms in late spring when the breeze belies the coming of summer.

These stolen moments from my workday remind me that Wintering feels comfortable, but the light still works its way in. The light reminds me of freedom and play and a yearning for adventure and change. We need both of them, though—the light and the dark. Light exists and is defined by darkness, just as darkness is defined in its contrast to light. You can’t have one without the other. Wintering isn’t all darkness after all, but it is characterized by a lack of light and a return and retreat inward.

So as I reside a little longer in my season of Wintering, I will let the light seep in and do its work. Wintering is a full-body experience, but so is the light. In the light, I can feel the suppleness of my body and my mind come back.

It seems I possess more flexibility in the light. Access to more play, more potential, more possibility. My play might look different than how most traditionally define it. There’s always a book involved in some way. I tend to re-read books in my inward retreats—I crave the relationships I created with these books when I first read them. Make no mistake, I see books as multi-faceted relationships. They remind me of who I am, who I was, and who I want to be in the future—just like being in the presence of your most trusted friend. That’s why I seek them out and keep them close.

As I begin to see the exit from this season of Wintering I am reminded of the new friends I will meet, books I will read, and adventures I will undertake as I begin to adjust my cadence to the light. It’s a generally faster speed, but it still allows for slowness when it is needed. And I like that. That’s what I want to take with me as I move out of my Wintering: a mantra that begins and ends with cadence. It’s all there for me in that one word. There is no wrong speed. Every speed is right. Every speed is needed. The light and the darkness work together to create a place of enoughness, a satiated sense that I am just what I need to be in this moment.

When I remember that, I remember that I have the power to set the pace and that I am a generator of light as well—not just an observer. I am a participant. Even in my Wintering, I have been phosphorescent, emitting a glow in the darkness to light the way for myself.

Image by 41330 from Pixabay


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