In defense of winter
A love letter to the darkness, on her way out
Spring has arrived in the northern hemisphere and it’s a party. The earth is beginning its transformation into a bouquet of flowering trees, a festival of collective triumph over the cold, unforgiving darkness. I’m right there with everyone. Those first few warm days - the remembrance of how nourishing the sun feels on my bare skin - it’s a highly potent pleasure.
Before diving headfirst into the carnival that is spring's beginning, I feel a compulsion to thank winter for her thorny hospitality, a season whose glories are so muted, so subtle, but so abundant. A season that offers so much if we’re willing to receive.
This winter hit different for me. No escapes planned to warmer, balmier climates, I had plenty of uninterrupted time to commune with the season. I’ve also been writing more than I ever have in my life, pushing myself to excavate deeper levels of vulnerability in my creativity. I immersed myself this winter, bathed in her darkness, calming the reflex to evade her callous ways.
Space, time, writing, cold, darkness: all of it provided the conditions to learn how to sit with myself, experience the sensation of letting emotions pass through me, and seek the truths they want me to hear. One instance of this practice happened while I was interviewing for a job that I felt hopeful for, which ended up not materializing into an offer. While spending weeks nervously waiting for an outcome, I tried to tap into the inherent goodness that exists in feeling excited for a potential new beginning. But I couldn’t quite settle into the goodness - the entire time I felt an uncomfortable feeling gnawing away at me. I followed this feeling, like a dog pulling me by its leash, to see what it had to show me. I stretched my body slowly and deeply, and honed in on the discomfort. With time, I traced it to the center of my chest, felt it travel upwards, and finally release as tears. Through the fog, clarity came. I realized that this job - the significance it held as a step into a new chapter - revealed a portal back into my grief of parting ways with my life and career in Palestine. The reality clicked inside me once again that I am not on hiatus from that era, but on the other side of it, a side shrouded in the tendrils of uncertainty. I may visit one day again, but I’ll never return to the me I was in that chapter, a me that I had found such comfort in being. Pulling the thread of this discomfort revealed a bittersweet truth in plain sight: grief is never really done with us.
Another rearing of grief’s head came through some freewriting I did recently. Without any preconceived ideas or inspiration, I arrived to my journal and wrote the words “What I really want is…” and then proceeded to resurrect an unrequited love I thought I had processed, healed from, let go of, but in reality was just ignoring. By giving permission to my subconscious to speak its truth through my writing, I was delivered back to the hurt patiently waiting its turn to be heard.
I leaned in, filling pages about all the things I wished had materialized in this bout of love. I wrote about an episode of affection that had transpired – unprovoked, innocent, and honest. A split second of tenderness that made me levitate with hope, only to crash land from the abrupt unraveling into nothingness. I observed my handwriting on the page, how desperately my hand was trying to keep up with the pace of my thoughts, the scribbles embodying the hurt I’d been carrying all this time.
I read out loud to myself what I had written. A calm, steady recitation. I expected not to last more than a few sentences before cringing to death and vowing never to return to this memory. But that didn’t happen. What happened was that the more I read, the more I loved how the words sounded on my tongue. The piece had a rhythm, a flow. There were rhymes I didn’t even realize I had made (I focus on the fog, a chance to start anew. I imagine freedom, I imagine you); imagery that captured the essence of how things felt in that love (watching the birds watching us). I read it again and again out loud to myself, my mind overwhelmed from the juxtaposition of taking pleasure in the melody of my words, while grappling with the sting of unrealized love.
For so long, I’ve felt shame for how I show up in love - so naive, earnest, sappy - a Looney Tunes character with bulging heart eyes. All egg-like with my fragile exterior and gooey innards, unable to play it cool. That fleeting romance - how it affected me - I hated myself for it. But through the writing, the repetition, the healing vibration of my own voice reverberating through my body, the shame transmuted into a sort of adoration. I began to see this exorcism as a poem about a love that is born ready to run. What a way to love. What a way I love. To show up with that energy - even in an asymmetrical connection - there’s an innocence and courage in there that I think is worth holding on to. So, I’m going to give it a shot - cherishing a part of myself I’ve tried so long to extinguish. All of this oversharing is to say that while I was reminded once again that grief is never really done with us, I was also shown the other side of that coin — that neither is healing.
So yeah, I’ve got mad respect for winter. Winter showed me how to navigate in darkness, how to return to myself, to my body, to home. Migratory birds are born with an innate orientation to true north. Birds are never lost - always where they are meant to be. And when it’s time to leave, they trust their inner compass to get to the next place. A bird is always either at home or on its way. The way birds follow the music of the earth, we have music in our souls, an enduring symphony that coaxes us home. If we’re willing to listen. Healing happens in the listening, healing takes us home, winter takes us to spring. Home is in the knowing that even in the darkness, we’re never truly lost.
The magnolia tree by my bedroom window has exploded into a million white lacy blossoms in a matter of a few days. Something that seemed so hopeless and dead is suddenly swarmed with ethereal bursts of life. Seeing the first blooms as I lifted my shades was breathtaking, similar to the delightful rush of stepping into your own surprise party. The arrival of spring, that first warm breeze, is the final touch needed to shed the skin that winter loosens. I feel a renewed sense of adventure and curiosity for what my future holds. I do that while honoring my time in Palestine, holding sacred its radical love forever imprinted in me. I also feel an opening, an excitement to fall in love again. This time with an embrace of how deeply I extend my heart.
I owe this renewal of spirit - this healing - to winter. Winter teaches us not to be afraid of the dark, to seek out the shadows within ourselves and listen to what they have to offer. Her love - albeit tough - is misunderstood. Winter nourishes us in our dormancy, infusing us with the energy needed to bloom with abandon. It’s with immense gratitude for winter - who even in her grouchiness offers sacred, mystical gifts - that I cartwheel into the radiant expanse of spring.