Fall colors are a visual swan song: rust, ochre, and amber give the year’s symphony of botanical color a final flourish before falling silent. In November, the trees become bare, fog settles over the dry fields, and frost blankets the ground. Autumn’s hue loses its saturation; everything becomes a quiet brown. It’s the pivot towards winter.
I have always associated winter with cold, loss and hardship. The weather’s icy, adversarial attitude, the darkness looming and foreboding —our language and cultural concept have made winter out to be the bad guy. Most of us are privileged to have a warm house, but I still hear a tone of drudgery everywhere in reference to winter’s season of waiting.
So maybe winter has been tough on humans in general, but the rest of the natural world seems to take it in stride. Animals have stored their food, perennial plants have buttressed their internal functions against the cold, annual plants have scattered tiny promises of their future, which lie sleeping in the ground.
Cold isn’t bad for the bear who has eaten enough, dark isn’t bad to the seed who’s proteins are maturing for spring’s light. Everyone else is ready for winter’s quiet journey inward —so why aren’t we? Why do we need constant stimuli to feel ok?
I started an earlier version of this essay with books in hand, trying to answer my burning questions about dreams vs. reality. I had some really punchy, meaningful thoughts which were actually just a load of BS. The books I read were super helpful and inspiring, but I actually need more time to sit with them before I have anything to say.
I need winter.
Winter is when the world dims and drives us towards what’s going on inside. Everything freezes and becomes covered with snow, like sheets that cover furniture in an empty house saying “It’s not time to use this right now.” Like animals in curled-up hibernation we ought to stop moving.
We ought to turn towards the quiet, towards the silence and stillness so we can hear God’s spirit speaking in our hearts more clearly.
Dreams and reality. I ran at my questions with all the blustery fire of fall’s red leaves and I found…
I am more comfortable with spring’s energetic new starts, summer’s vibrant bustle, and fall’s busy gathering. In winter everything else has gone away: my questions face me with the stark contrast of an empty background. It feels cold and harsh until I remember that winter is my friend. I accept the invitation to stillness and silence.
Do you tend to shy away from stillness too? Is your attitude toward winter a grim “this difficultly will make me a better person” mantra? Did you feel like your soul missed a beat between the candy hangover of Halloween and the inane “Fa-la-la-la-las” resounding through Costco?
I am trying a new thing this winter. Every day from 6:30 to 6:45 from now until Christmas Eve, I am going to be still and silent. For me, that’s going to look like a contemplative prayer of letting go and waiting on my friend Jesus to speak to my heart.
Would you consider joining me in 15 minutes a day of winter quiet? It helps me to set an alert on my phone and/or have a friend or two to text about it. I’ll be cataloging my experience on Instagram, #40daysofwinterquiet.
As fall fades away, may you be ready for winter’s quiet journey inward. May you not shy away from darkness, stillness, and silence, but let these things offer room for your heart to process and, when the season is right, grow.