Once upon a rather long time ago, the deep dark of winter gave people the gift of time – time to look back, to savor the moment, and to ponder the future. Hundreds of years ago in this very town, settlers gathered around the hearth, enjoying not only warmth and light but also a pause in their labors. The wheel of the year slowed for these cold and snowy months, giving everyone a chance to ground themselves in the quiet dreams of the season.
Today, we are rarely afforded such luxuries. Our modern lifestyles and convenience technologies rob us of the enforced respite that used to arrive with the first snowflakes. Now, the ending of the year not only fails to slow us down, it actually drives us forward at ever increasing and urgent speeds. Beginning in October with Hallowe’en, the holidays stampede toward us, overlapping in their haste to celebrate – Christmas lights showing up on store shelves alongside plastic jack-o’-lanterns. December finds us rushing hither and thither trying desperately to accomplish the slew of seasonal tasks that has suddenly materialized on top of routine family and work responsibilities.
And then – when the explosion of holiday “magic” has passed us by, when all our good cheer has been spent, and our adrenaline-induced sprint seems run – the New Year descends upon us, full of good intentions, resolutions, and a fresh batch of obligations, deadlines, and demands. We have traded in the natural and nurturing cycle of seasons for a treadmill.
As we close the door on 2011 and prepare to step into 2012, maybe we can give ourselves permission to stop for a moment and sit with the story of where we’ve been and where we’re going. Perhaps instead of careening blindly back into the fray of things we “must” and “should” do, we can pull back for some perspective. 2011 was a tough year for many, but there are still things for which we can be grateful. And although the year ahead is full of unknowns, surely some of those mysteries hold good things for us.
With the sparkle and glitter of the holidays shining in the rearview mirror, now is the time to stop and take a breath … or even two. Remember that winter is the season of reflection and regeneration. These are the months when we should take a lesson from the wild creatures that hole up sensibly in their dens and burrows. Though the days already grow a little longer with each sunrise, there is still a chance for us to find pockets of time where we can curl up with our thoughts.
The really good things in life happen in the spaces in between. They creep up on quiet paws and settle in our laps when we least expect them. Epiphanies and understanding come to us when we make room with quiet. Here’s to a New Year full of hope, possibilities, and a healthy share of moments in which to slow down and enjoy the journey.
Image Credit: Jerrycharlotte Miller
This piece was originally written for and published in The Ipswich Chronicle – the small town newspaper of my home town, Ipswich.