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December 21 — that’s the day winter officially begins. Yet, somehow (and I can’t be the only one!), I’m already tired of it. If it’s not winter yet, then why is it so cold? Why are we beset with snow and wind and slush and gray skies? Calendars and almanacs may be useful, but they can’t tell us how we feel. Only we know that. And in this Advent, this time of waiting, I am feeling ready for something new. Something wonderful. (P.S. A thank-you to my good friend Marilyn Rausch for the term “hyacinth of the soul”!)

In this winter by another name,
this still-point of seasons,
in trees stripped clean,
in a sky black with grackles,
ground as hard as haters’ hearts:

I am waiting for a hyacinth of the soul:
something fragrant and unexpected.

Something’s coming
with a gift already purchased,
bought in blood, so long ago.
I have only to hold it in my hands
to know it. It feels like the sun,
wobbling weak as a new calf,
standing. Sniffing springtime.
May the light find us ready
to stand awhile and bask.

The crocus are up and blooming.  Winter is heading out the door.

And, in all truth, it is about time.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love winter.  Snow and cold?  Love them.  I think I like snow days more than the kids do.

But I also have seasonal depression.  By the time spring rolls around, I need a bit of sunlight to lift me up.

Today, I’ll head to the arbor and see if the new rose-bush we put in survived.  If not, I’ll have to replace it.  And my husband went to the nursery to see about the apple trees for the community garden.

The thing about fruit trees?  You aren’t going to benefit from them today.  They are an investment in tomorrow.  To me, they are a symbol of faith.  We will plant this and it will grow.  And tomorrow?  Tomorrow we will benefit.  Spring will come again and again.


Little darlin’ (as the late, great George Harrison might say), it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. Even if you don’t believe in global warming or climate change (you should; it’s as provable as gravity), you must admit that it’s been a wild wintery ride — so much rain in California, there’s no longer a drought (in fact, some towns have turned into islands), bitter cold and snow throughout the Midwest, tornados down South. Dark days, folks.

It’s a lot like Lent. As we walk with Jesus through these forty days, we walk a path of self-awareness. What is keeping you from being a fulfilled, self-realized child of God? Do you lack something in your life or do you suffer from a surfeit — too much of a certain bad behavior or unhealthy way of thinking? Whatever is out of balance, Lent is the time to take strides toward fixing it.

I’m not going to lie and say it will be easy…in fact, it shouldn’t be. You should expect to struggle. True change doesn’t come easily. But at the end of this winter-of-the-soul, there will be Easter. Spring. Renewal, regrowth, new life. In other words, here comes the sun.

Instead of wishing away winter, let’s hold on to its lessons. Being flesh is hard, scary and lonesome. But as anyone who’s ever snuggled with a warm puppy (or kitten) knows, being flesh is also lovely. Embrace your dark days, but look toward the light. It’s coming, as sure as Springtime.

The leaves that started to turn are off the trees. Winter has murdered Fall with icy fingers. Or skip the poetics: It’s cold out there. On Monday, it was 72 degrees. On Wednesday, 25. We never did get an autumnal blaze of glory. Tulip-lovers are planting bulbs with gloved hands, wondering how they lost their window of opportunity so quickly. Rarely have the seasons changed with such brutal rapidity.

Still, there are warm moments: The Pope has announced that Vatican bathrooms will be outfitted with showers for the use of homeless people. The Supreme Court upheld gay marriage in Kansas, opening the door for a longtime friend of mine to officially cement her relationship with her beloved partner. Thanksgiving approaches and folks online and out in the world are expressing gratitude, collecting for the needy and just generally upping their spiritual game.

Let us not be dismayed at the freeze, meteorologically or metaphorically. Faith is all about seeing the good among the wicked, the single flower in the snow, and hanging on to it with all one’s might. Some might ask why. I prefer to ask why not. Why not take every little bit of goodness and roll it up into a ball and stash it in your pocket to keep you warm against the chill of bad tidings, war and injustice?

My spirituality makes some people nervous. How can I believe in God when X, Y and Z are happening in the world? How can I stay with a church that excludes, that cannot take a step forward without groans of protest and threats of further retreat? The answer is: I don’t know; I just do. Somewhere, in the small, still center of myself, I know what I know. God is love. I need to be in a place where change can be effected. Goodness will triumph in the end.

When winter winds blast you, why not stand with those who are trying to keep warm, whether through good deeds or religious faith? I know my choice. Come on over — our love will keep us warm.

Two inches of snow in Atlanta. Polar vortexes. Snow days. Winter has us in its grip, and an icy grip it is. Of course, every winter feels apocalyptic in its way; we tend to let Spring and Summer thaw us into a kind of balmy forgetfulness, only for Winter to return with bitter reminders. Such are the seasons, if one is lucky enough to live someplace with seasons. (I grew up in California, where the seasons consist of “raining” and “not raining”. It imparts a rather unrealistic vision of all things weather-related.)

We also experience, at various times in our lives, a winter of the soul. Hope is in cold storage; the way ahead appears alarmingly icy. It is during these times that we ought to turn to comfort, whether that’s a warm cup of soup or a familiar prayer. Personally, I derive comfort from poetry.

Lately, I’ve been intrigued with the metaphor and connectedness between birds and prayer. (Which is strange, because birds, especially in large number, generally give me the heebie-jeebies.) Both ascend skyward, singing. Both are as natural as the seasons. So, in honor of Winter, please accept the following haiku. And stay warm!

Word of praise takes flight
soars heavenward on bright wings;
blessings fall like snow.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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