As we started walking, in silence, gentle rain falling, soft ice crunching underneath our feet, my eyes rested on the lake across the path. The surface was like glass, fog hovering and mixing with everything, adding a sense of mystery to the landscape, the bare trees reflecting on the surface of the water, their reflection still and silent, mixed with mist and grey.
We continued walking along the lakeshore and slowly we ascended towards a meadow where birdhouses stood on poles. The ground was muddy and icy at places. Grateful for my new winter boots, I did not try to avoid the muddy puddles or the icy patches. I felt like a child, sloshing through the mud, carefree and adventurous.
There was a light rain falling so I opened my rickety red umbrella. I looked at it. Its shape made me smile. Oddly bending and utterly crooked, this umbrella has been places, I thought. Yet, here it was, keeping my head dry and doing what it was meant to do. Just like me, I thought. Not brand new anymore, slightly bent and rickety but still doing my thing.
Eventually, the path took us through wetlands and into the woods. What had been lush and green just a few months ago, was now lifeless and mushed together. Trees stood tall and bare. Some had felled and others whose trunks and branches had turned this way and that and looked like limber dancers frozen in time and space.
I looked at the people in our group. We all walked in silence, at our own pace, stopping to check-in, making sure everyone was keeping up and was doing ok. Strangers walking on the same path, at our own pace, yet connected.
We walked through wetlands, along the river, and past the pond, I often visit in the summer. Covered in ice, reeds withered, leaning seemingly lifeless, everything around us extending an invitation to silence and stillness.
The water appears to be completely still but, is it? Underneath the gleaming ice, there is continuous movement. Life happens under the surface. Pretty soon it will spring forth and make its announcement; I am still here!
I am reminded of a poem by a Greek poet, declaring the perseverance and power of water. Water moves and sips in every crack, nurturing, drowning, sweeping. It moves gently, quietly, in silence, and other times it roars and thunders but it’s always moving, persistently and continuously altering its environment.
As we turned towards the house, where we could sit with our experience for a few minutes, I felt gratitude for being here and deeply experiencing the message and invitation of winter.
Winter was never a favorite season but living in New England, I’ve learned to realize the gifts and promise of winter. Life appears to slow down but not really. It only goes underground for a while to prepare for the season of abundance. Winter’s change of pace allows for reflection which in turn leads to much-needed insights that strengthen our resolve. Hope and perseverance are the gifts of winter and these days I can use the reminder.