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Winter Whispers

Why do I struggle with winter? An ‘aha’ came yesterday: winter is death and I’m afraid of dying. I cling to my leaves instead of letting them fall; free to feed the soil and nourish once more. Yes, the spring bud and bulb is beautiful … but so is the seemingly barren, for it births the beauty.

This winter has been harsh. The hardest for me since moving to England nearly 19 years ago. I think I feel the intensity of the dark season more since moving to the countryside; weathering it alongside the landscape, acutely aware of every shift and slowing. In the city, it’s easy to get seduced and side-tracked by the bright lights and always ‘on’ energy.

I can’t ignore the fact that I grew up in Zululand … where summer blooms for 9 months before birthing a very mild drop in temperature; a postpartum pause in the high humidity. So perhaps my vitamin D reserves are well and truly dry. Not to mention that this winter has been shrouded in death, dis-ease, desperation and disaster as we have journeyed Covid and watched the world battle dictators and discrimination, starvation and stress, fear and furlough.

In all senses of the word, I have felt like I've been dying this winter. My physical and mental have health suffered. A sense longing and loss lingered. I just couldn’t be the old me anymore.

As I sat in yesterday’s gift of sunshine – and turned the page in my book – the chapter that stared back at me was titled: The Landscape of Death. Oh boy, time to look this one straight in the eye!

The first excerpt I underlined was:

“The conquest of the fear of death, is the recovery of life’s great joys.” Joseph Campbell.

I know that this seasons has been trying to teach me this. I know it in theory: life, death, rebirth. But my ego is terrified of being untethered. I cling, I control, I get caught up in the unhappiness of habituation: sleep-walking through the day, leaving little room for the great magic and mystery to mend and magnify. I straddle the present with one foot in the past and the other in the future. These ‘time-travelling’ splits have been scarring my spirit.

The thing is … I seem to view death as the ‘main event’, when in fact we die and are reborn every moment. We breathe in and we breathe out. One experience ends and another experience begins. Our cells are constantly renewing. Everything is in a continual state of flux. And maybe if we don’t use the word death – with all its connotations and language limitations – we might remember this. In a joyous journey with everything in the universe, we tirelessly transform, transmute, transcend.

And equally, the bliss of each day, month, year shouldn’t be about the ‘main events’, rather the unfolding beauty in the unknown, the unexpected, the extraordinary everyday.

The second excerpt I underlined:

“We practice dying while we are alive by making friends with endings, partings and change.” Elizabeth Lesser.

I have a complicated relationship with change. I crave it ... but often cave when it comes calling. You only have to look at my home to see this. I’m desperate to ‘KonMari’ the crap out of it. The trouble is, I’m so sentimental. I keep things. I get attached. I struggle to let go. Holding gives me a false sense of wealth and not wanting. Firmly in the familiar, I feel safe and in control. But that is just an illusion. And in doing so, I leave little room for the new; no space for the wild and wonderful unknown.

It has been a heavy hibernation this year. Yet even as I await medical tests results, a little halo of hope encircles me now – illuminated by a sunny weekend and listening to those far wiser. I like to think that I’ve been in a cocoon, my imaginal cells undergoing a metamorphosis to bring forth a new layer to my being. I am emerging. I am recognising that I am both fully human and fully divine. I am embracing that each of these lessons brings another luminous level of consciousness. I am being gentle with myself as I process the process...

... recognising that in any given moment, I might start at the beginning all over again: learn, remember, forget, repeat.

P.S. I am only five pages into this personally challenging chapter of ‘The Seeker’s Guide’ by Elizabeth Lesser. I’ve been savouring every second of this incredible book. No doubt many more meaningful gems are waiting to be unearthed.


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