The Bleak Mid-Winter


On Cape Ann, the winters are when we “reclaim” our precious seashore.  We have our sacred places back, in private, for a while.  Are we taking advantage of that?  Walk or “spin” the beach. Get tea or coffee and watch the surf.

Our early winter celebrations have come and gone.

We’ve opened our homes and extended hospitality from simple to lavish.  Hopefully, as we celebrated, we affirmed our connections with those we cherish. I hope your festivities were fun, life-affirming, and satisfying.

Whatever you celebrate, I’ll guess that the decorations are packed up, the house is back to normal, and we are settling into the season of long nights.  So, in the privacy of the dark and quiet, let’s open our hearts wide and reflect.

Is there a gift packaged up and hidden in the pitch black at 4 p.m.?

The darkness is painful for some and can be a huge challenge.  Many of us do as well in the seasons where we can walk, weed, or water until 9 pm.  Unfortunately, as we approach February, the weather is not hospitable for spending much time outside or staying out late (and, of course, by late, I mean 7 pm).  If this hasn’t happened to you yet, and you think I am a fossil… just wait.  The whole idea that “this isn’t going to happen to me.  I just won’t let it” is the April Fools Prank of youth.


We have the rare opportunity to slow down and even STOP.  What is waiting for us in the quiet as the weather drives us indoors into our comfies?  Is it a book, a series, a letter, a phone call, an email, or a connection?  Is it reconciliation after many years of brokenness?  Is it figuring out a strategy or plan with a loved one?

Is it spending some time, intentionally, doing an inside job?  An inside job is the opposite of the holiday chaos we’re familiar with (shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, and entertaining). Instead, it’s quiet, contemplative, and intentional.

Maybe it’s not even heavy-duty intentional work.  Perhaps it’s just being still and noticing what’s around.  On Cape Ann, the winters are when we “reclaim” our precious seashore.  There are still visitors who bring dogs to frolic on the doggie days, but overall, the throngs of the summer crowds are gone.  We have our sacred places back, in private, for a while.  Are we taking advantage of that?  Walk or “spin” the beach. Get tea or coffee and watch the surf.

All kinds of things are possible as this season of opportunity knocks on our door.

You can customize your expectations—from deciding to see the beauty in the trees without leaves. Look at the structure, the miracle of how the tree stays alive, despite the frozen tundra.  I always “hated” the look of the “dead and desolate” tree limbs, but many years ago, I forced myself to find the beauty.  It’s there; I found it. I don’t see it as beautiful daily, but I can find it.

Use the gift that the short days and long nights give us: newfound gratitude for those rare days of blue sky, and a renewed appreciation for our lovely warm drinks, hot cocoa, mulled cider, and wassail of your creation.  It’s not the “bad” season. It’s hard. A season of difficulty.  A season of retreat.  A season of contemplation.  Rumination.  Consideration.  Emancipation.

If you are way ahead of me, you may not need language at all.  You are just “present,” connected, and experiencing life around you.  You commune with your environment and have developed the ability to feel oneness with the waves, birds, cold air, wind, and snow.  You might foster this connection in the elements or behind a window next to the fire.

This may resonate with you, and your escape plan is ready.  Or perhaps the notion of going inward doesn’t appeal to you.  You have nothing to do, nothing unresolved, nothing to figure out.  Congratulations.  You are a rare bird.

Admittedly, slowing down is hard for me.  But honestly, this subject matter is written as much for me as it is for you.  So, now that the holiday frenzy is over, take many deep breaths and reset.  What needs tossing?  What needs to come inside from the cold?

When it’s ten below zero wind chill, it’s good to have an inside job available.  It might just be an unexpected blessing amid the bleak mid-winter.

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