The Winters Will Drive You Crazy Until You Learn To Get Out Into Them …

But for me, winter has an even greater gift to give. It comes when the sky is clear, the sun is brilliant, the trees are bare, and first snow is yet to come. It is the gift of utter clarity. In winter, one can walk into woods that had been opaque with summer growth only a few months earlier and see the trees clearly, singly and together, and see the ground they are rooted in.

A few years ago, my father died. He was more than a good man, and the months following his death were a long, hard winter for me. But in the midst of that ice and loss, I came into a certain clarity that I lacked when he was alive. I saw something that had been concealed when the luxuriance of his love surrounded me—saw how I had relied on him to help me cushion life’s harsher blows. When he could no longer do that, my first thought was, “Now I must do it for myself.” But as time went on, I saw a deeper truth: it never was my father absorbing those blows but a larger and deeper grace that he taught me to rely on.

When my father was alive, I confused the teaching with the teacher. My teacher is gone now, but the grace is still there—and my clarity about that fact has allowed his teaching to take deeper root in me. Winter clears the landscape, however brutally, giving us a chance to see ourselves and each other more clearly, to see the very ground of our being.

In the Upper Midwest, newcomers often receive a classic piece of wintertime advice: “The winters will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them.” Here people spend good money on warm clothing so that they can get outdoors and avoid the “cabin fever” that comes from huddling fearfully by the fire during the hard-frozen months. If you live here long, you learn that a daily walk into the winter world will fortify the spirit by taking you boldly to the very heart of the season you fear.

Our inward winters take many forms—failure, betrayal, depression, death. But every one of them, in my experience, yields to the same advice: “The winters will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them.” Until we enter boldly into the fears we most want to avoid, those fears will dominate our lives. But when we walk directly into them—protected from frostbite by the warm garb of friendship or inner discipline or spiritual guidance—we can learn what they have to teach us. Then we discover once again that the cycle of the seasons is trustworthy and life-giving, even in the most dismaying season of all.
— Parker J. Palmer from Let Your Life Speak

 

See Also: