This was our sky on the eve of the Inauguration. I read it as an omen for better weather to come–“red skies at night, sailors’ delight’. We were in front of the TV at 6 am the next morning, wanting to make sure Trump’s plane actually went up into the sky and flew away, out of our sight. The morning dawn looked so beautiful on the White House. We watched all day long, holding our breath for the safety of the new President and Vice President. We loved seeing their children, hearing the glorious music, and Amanda Gorman’s electrifying poem. By the time Washington’s night sky was ablaze in fireworks, we’d finished off an entire box of Kleenex, and collapsed into bed, emotionally spent, the weight of it all suddenly off our shoulders.
The next early morning, looking at me over our computers, Don said, “Even the coffee doesn’t taste so good this morning.” The air was out of our balloons, the brief honeymoon was over, and we were back into the reality of the White House and Capitol strewn with dirty laundry, new variants of the virus springing up across the globe, and a Wild West free-for-all as Americans rush to get themselves on to waiting lists for limited vaccines. And, we are still in the month of January–deep into Wintertime Blues. While there is no snow, the temperatures have finally returned to their normal lows in the teens and highs in the twenties, reminding us this is the time of Winter.
I listened to a wonderful OnBeing podcast the other morning with Katherine May, author of the book Wintering…the power of rest and retreat in difficult times. I love how she says, “Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.”
“Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. Wintering is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.
“It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order. Doing these deeply unfashionable things — slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting — is a radical act now, but it’s essential. ”
It was just what I needed to hear at the end of this January, even as I delight in the extra light at the end of each day now, accumulating at a rate of two to four minutes. Katherine May calls upon us to put our house in order, and to just be Present, in the seasonality of what is this time. And Billy Collins tells us just how hard that is to do.
By Billy Collins
Much has been said about being in the present.
It’s the place to be, according to the gurus,
like the latest club on the downtown scene,
but no one, it seems, is able to give you directions.
It doesn’t seem desirable or even possible
to wake up every morning and begin
leaping from one second into the next
until you fall exhausted back into bed.
Plus, there’d be no past
with so many scenes to savor and regret,
and no future, the place you will die
but not before flying around with a jet-pack.
The trouble with the present is
that it’s always in a state of vanishing.
Take the second it takes to end
this sentence with a period––already gone.
What about the moment that exists
between banging your thumb
with a hammer and realizing
you are in a whole lot of pain?
What about the one that occurs
after you hear the punch line
but before you get the joke?
Is that where the wise men want us to live
in that intervening tick, the tiny slot
that occurs after you have spend hours
searching downtown for that new club
and just before you give up and head back home?