Winter Again

Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding I

As I write this, we’re in the process of clearing snow dropped on our region by back-to-back storms.  Of course, this is to be expected in early March.

But a week earlier I had allowed myself to be lulled into a false expectation that spring had all but arrived and settled in. There were days in February when temperatures were in the 40s, nipping at the heels of 50.  Snow and ice were melting, and mud was emerging on gravel roads – a sure sign of spring.

To me, this is very much the season of “midwinter spring” that Eliot describes.  It can seem as if we’re caught in an endless loop of winter one day, spring the next, then back to winter.  On any given day the weather might signal winter’s end.  But the calendar tells an entirely different story, warning us not to stow snowplows and shovels just yet.

That fleeting period of warmer weather prompted me to long for spring.  So much so, in fact, that I was tempted not to believe the forecast that promised generous amounts of snow.  It was as if I could bend the weather to my will by refusing to believe what the meteorologist said.  And we know how that always turns out!

Inevitably, the snow and colder temperatures brought me back to reality – to here and now.  Suddenly I was forced to shift my attention from the way I wished things to be to the way they are, like it or not (and I didn’t). Grumbling to myself, and anyone within earshot, I pulled on my winter gear and headed out to clear the mountains of snow that had slid off our roof onto the back deck and the front walkway.

Repetitive tasks like shoveling snow never fail to cause to wander.  And in my mental meander I was reminded that I mostly like winter.  I view the hard work of pushing snow out of the way as the price we pay for the privilege of skiing and snowshoeing and walks through the snowy woods. Plus, I love settling in by the fire with a cup of tea and a good book.

I realized that by remaining focused on what I thought I wanted rather than what was there right in front of me, I risked missing some of the things I enjoy.  And I remembered something that, serendipitously, I had read earlier in the day:

“Live from day to day, just from day to day. If you do so, you worry less and live more richly. If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Bring Me a Unicorn

Even when we find ourselves in places we would rather not be, in difficulties, in seasons of life like “midwinter spring,” we can save ourselves from a measure of unhappiness if we let go of trying to be where we wished we were and allowing ourselves simply to be where we are.  Every spiritual tradition I can think of teaches that focusing on today is enough – and it’s the best way to prepare for tomorrow.