A Wild Patience: Waiting on Winter
Winter. Not. My. Season. Nope.
All I can do is wait. And complain.
It’s not that different from my meditation practice. The resistance I feel to a moment on the cushion is just magnified and elongated into the long nights and gray days of winter. A season of being caught up in wanting things to be other than they are. In the same way I can’t seem to allow myself to open to this breath (and instead plan and fantasize and escape), I can’t seem to allow this cold and dark to simply be (and plan and fantasize and escape — to tropical beaches).
This time of year is always hardest. Winter is ending so soon (please?). But every day below freezing feels like divine punishment. People around me are moody and depressed and I am screaming at my dog, Suki, because she woke me up at 2am to go out and now won’t poop even though we’ve circled the block 4 times. Poor Suki… she actually loves winter. But she has a fur coat.
This bitter cold reminds me of Adrienne Rich’s poem Integrity. It begins with the line, A wild patience has taken me this far.
Maybe I need an oxymoron like wild patience to get through winter. And not only winter but the incongruous pace with which we meet it in our contemporary lives. The ground in the park is like frozen tundra, I am layered to near immobility, but because I am rushing to catch the train for a meeting, I slip and fall on the ice.
I feel impenetrable and fragile at the same time. When it’s cold, I am contracted and huddled and my heart is often physically and energetically defended. I can’t really feel what’s wild in there, and I brace and tense in craving for light and warmth (speaking of what’s wild in there, next month I will explore “The Hawks in Our Hearts”).
Later in the poem she writes:
I could say winter and summer: my selves. I do see them as polarities rather than angelic yet earthly manifestations of life just as it is. Can I allow it all?
When I push away winter, I’m both rejecting what is dark, cold, and still in me as well as what is resistant, aversive, conflicting in me. When I only want summer light and comforting warmth, I am clinging to only the pleasant and to what cannot last. And, of course, nothing can last.
But I don’t need to reject winter nor my conflict with winter — both denials come from the same place. A refusal of what simply is. Turning a way from life. Closing off the sacred. Winter is. My aversion to winter is. Can I open to both?
Many years ago, a friend who grew up in Minnesota schooled me on how to relax into winter. It was a wicked kind of cold that night and we were going to a party in an old boat on the Hudson. The wind was fierce and my entire being was tensing up as we walked along the water. She told me I was only making it worse, that if I simply relaxed my body everything would be easier. I tried it. It worked. And then I went back to tension (and cussing).
That was 20 years ago and from time to time I remember Jacky’s wise advice. To relax and open to it all. Anger and tenderness. In my broken web.