As I shoveled with my husband, the Tibetan temple bell I placed in our front yard gently tinkled with the blowing snow. The temple bells are used traditionally to encourage rain, scare away hailstorms or demons, but ultimately they are to cause people to stop and surrender their “me first” attitude and merge with the universe.
The bell chimed softly reminding me to embrace winter, not resent it. Winter often puts a kink in my plans. My stepdaughter’s flight out was cancelled. We lost Internet, which meant I did not get my scheduled posts up. With work cancelled, we all holed up in the house. We ate hearty meals, played board games, and watched old movies. As a family, we were resting and reconnecting.
At the end of the gardening season, I spent time grooming the soil, spreading humus and manure, before finally turning it to rest. The long sleep while the garden remains frozen and snow-covered allows it to regains its ability to nurture the spring seeds.
Here in the US, we are not fond of enforced rest or seasonal deprivation. We want what we want no matter what. That’s why we ship in fruits and flowers out of season often depriving other countries of their own seasonal produce. We pay more, which means we’re entitled to it. Wendell Berry explains our need to eat responsibly best in his essay. As for rest, we don’t get much.
People think Americans are always vacationing. Not true, if we’re fortunate to have a job with a two week paid vacation. We sleep less than most other world citizens spending too much time in front of the television or computer, then, often finding it hard to unwind. Even our children are urged to do more.
Children start sports about the time they conquer walking. Those who show some aptitude play year around. This literally wears down the body causing teens to experience sports injuries more common to professional athletes. Even young bodies need time to recover from repeated stress of the same motion.
Relax, nap, rest are treated as if bad words. It is only when we reach the state between sleep and wakefulness that we are able to ground ourselves, meditate, and connect with the universe.
What is the message behind winter? It is a time of rest and contemplation. It is also a reminder not to take nature for granted. We have our snug houses, powerful vehicles and technology, which often fools us into believing we have dominance over nature. Every now and them, Nature decides to prove otherwise.
We can speculate on what causes the shift in weather patterns and come up with a dozen different reasons. In the end, we need to respect the power and beauty of winter. Realize because we might own a snow blower, a generator and a weather radio that doesn’t make us the boss of winter. The snow, the downed power lines, and icy roads remind us to slow down.
In this stillness, we can contemplate life. It shouldn’t be surprising that often in the long cold winter nights; people re-discover forgotten dreams and make peace with their mortality.