In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
by Albert Camus in 1951.
Some winters happen in the sun. Everybody winters at one time or another; some winter over and over again. Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, side-lined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider. Perhaps it results from an illness; perhaps from a life event; perhaps it comes from a humiliation or failure. Perhaps you’re in a period of transition and have temporarily fallen between two worlds. Sometimes wintering creeps upon us more slowly, accompanying the death of a relationship, the stepping up of caring responsibilities as our parents age, the loss of confidence. However, it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely and deeply painful. Yet it’s also inevitable. We like to imagine that it’s possible for life to be one eternal summer, and that we have uniquely failed to achieve that for ourselves. In our relentlessly busy contemporary world, we are forever trying to defer the onset of winter. We don’t dare to feel its full bite, and we don’t dare to show the way that it ravages us. We must stop believing that these times in our life are somehow silly, a failure of nerve, a lack of willpower. We must stop trying to ignore them or dispose of them. They are real, and they are asking something of us. We must learn to invite the winter in. Learning to recognise the process, engage with it mindfully, and even to cherish it. We may never choose when to winter, but we can choose how.
Our knowledge of winter is part of childhood: we learn about it in novels and fairy tales that are set in the snow. All the careful preparations that animals make to endure the cold, food-less months, hibernation and migration. This is no accident. The changes that take place in winter are a kind of alchemy, and enchantment performed by ordinary creatures to survive. 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 that they lived in summer. They prepare. They adapt. That’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but it’s essential. Especially when we have our own inner wintering. Once we stop wishing it were summer, winter can be a glorious season when the inner and outside world take on a sparse beauty. It’s a time for reflection and recovery, for slow renewal, for putting your house in order. Find meaning or don’t find meaning but “steal” some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self. Opt for privacy and solitude.
Within you something will resonate, a warm spark that brings you through this winter period of your life. An invincible summer which is deeply inside your natural being and can bloom once again, spring is coming. But you need to breathe, and you need to be. This is a crossroad we all know, a moment when you need to shed a skin. Don’t let that old skin harden around you. A new spring, with tiny but direct rays of the sun, will then come into your life.
Easter represents a starting point for spring: the awakening and renewal of the soul into a transfigured being. The east is where the sun rises. It is our so-needed source of light and inspiration – the source of life itself. The east will tell us it’s time to wake up, start moving towards the sun. It will motivate us to shake off our worries and anxieties or at least, let it shine in a more powerful and meaningful light. Once we have got through our wintering period, an inner Easter will make its way through. For it says no matter how hard an inner winter can be, it is sure that an inner spring will follow. This is the circle of life, the circle of the soul, of the entire nature. This renewal will support us in moving forward with a new strength coming directly from a source within us.