Mindful Behaviorist – Loving and Leaving Winter – An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy story

elm park bridge winter croppedI have always been a person who loved winter.

As I write the snow is falling and coating the iced-up banks that first fell in February.    It’s March 1st, and daffodils are coming up in Wales where I was born.  When the temperature hits the 40s on Wednesday, for the first time this year, we will all be thrilled.  A part of me longs for spring, and a part needs to remain here, in the cold.

I know I’m not alone in my odd tastes.  While in Martha’s Vineyard years ago, I discovered Daniel Waters selling his books of poetry at a craft fair at the Grange.    One of his collections is called “Needing Winter”.  It’s wonderful. – He knows exactly what I mean.

Since I want to get this blog published before winter is gone, there is no time to write to him and request his permission to quote him, so I can’t.  Suffice it to say that he understands the connection between winter and peace.

In the depths of winter we are pared down.  I am lucky enough to work for myself, and have an office a half a mile from my house.  There is no need to “go” anywhere.  My husband is retired and cooks me wonderful meals.  We have a gas fireplace which stands in for a sauna, two cats who look for a lap, knitting and Netflix.  Clients cancel so my caseload is low.  I can study and catch up and dream.  I started the blog I had planned for a year, and began to trust that I really would keep on writing.   Introverts like me love this stuff.   There’s time to create because social contacts are fewer. This is the happiness of winter.

Then there’s the other, harsher side.   Daniel Waters roots  the glorious flowers of summer in winter’s deprivations, in the need to accept lack and loss. There’s a power in winter, a kind of book-of-Job complement to all our ills, a larger perspective that makes them easier to bear.

Like night, winter is rejected by the modern world, an inconvenience, something to be minimized and ignored.  Winter doesn’t expect anything of us.  We can let go of the need  to be happy, productive, positive, etc, etc, etc.  It encourages us to be slow, meditative, to sit with sorrow and pain both physical and emotional.  There is nowhere to go except within the house and the self. If we can accept it, we escape the pressures of our culture for a while.

When I must sit with my own particular demons, I prefer that it be cold and dark.  Then I have time.  There is no need to be up and doing, cheery and bright in the southern sun, pushing aside everything in me that is broken, and not fixed, and  not perhaps fixable, except in some larger context that I cannot grasp.

Winter creates space within the heart.  How can people bear to avoid it?

Only by sitting through winter can I be ready for spring.

“Needing Winter” by Daniel Waters, a poet, printer, and printmaker, is published by Indian Hill Press, West Tisbury, MA.  I recommend it highly.