Our time comes in yesterdays, todays and tomorrows.
~ John O’Donohue
We had rain for thirty six hours. The kind of rain you expect in winter, although we are circling into summer. We haven’t had this kind of rain — more than 100mm — in over a year and there were rivulets winding across the lawn down to the road. Spring is over. I missed it and the beauty of new growth it brings because I’ve been moving through a dark time. A winter of the soul.
Have you ever been through a winter of the soul?
It’s a time when joy in life withers, or the warmth of human relationships turn cold, you may have had a tragedy, or your hopes or dreams were dashed on the rocks of reality. There is a sadness, a sense of failure, a loss of energy, loneliness, the inability to find beauty in the world and it feels like there is nothing new to take its place.
‘Winter of the soul’ is a phrase John O’Donohue uses to describe this bleak period and I think it sums up my experience. He says that at these times you should follow nature’s instincts and withdraw, lie low, and shelter until the bleakness passes.
I’m not the type of person who lies low, I’m the one who pushes through. Aren’t we always exhorted to push through the pain, to fake it ’til we make it, to smile even though we don’t want to because it will make us feel better? This time however, it’s been difficult to spiral out of my dark winter of the soul and I’ve been hunkering down. Letting things go. Not doing or being, or seeing.
Until the rains came.
The rain cleared this morning and the princess dog and I went for an early morning walk. This used to be part of my routine, but I’ve fallen out of this habit as I have with many things. The very things that bring peace and joy and focus. No photographs, no journal writing, no making plans, no drawing, no following my path to the passionate life I desire. There are many reasons for this but when I think of them now, they feel like excuses. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say, the reasons — which seemed valid — caused me to spiral into deep sadness and discontent with my lot. A dark, cold winter of the soul. But time is a circle as is the year, which cycles through the seasons.
And just as in nature, the seasons of the soul change as time passes, as we grow older, as we learn and have different experiences.
So although I missed spring while I was in a state of melancholy, the seasons continued to turn and we are now on the cusp of blossoming into the richness of summer. It’s nature’s time to flourish and grow. A time of texture and colour, light and arrival. It’s also the time for plans to flourish. John says,
Transience is the force of time that makes a ghost of every experience.
This morning marks a turning point for me. Walking with the princess allowed me time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I want to go. The replenishing rain, nature’s gift to the parched earth, is an omen. A sign that summertime is on the threshold of my soul. My intuition tells me that it’s time to shake off the ghosts of yesterday’s experiences, focus on today and prepare for tomorrow.
Part of this preparation is to reawaken my senses to the beauty around me. John, in his book Divine beauty: the invisible embrace says that beauty is quietly woven through our days in the simplest things — kindness, tenderness, and care, for instance, bring touches of beauty. For me, there is a whisper of beauty in picking herbs for a meal, seeing tiny grapes forming on the vines, feeling the freshness in the air this morning after the cleansing rain, watching the creek in full flow over the crossing after stagnating in small pools for so many months.
I’ve been moving through the past weeks without noticing the beauty in my world but I now hear it calling me. John says,
When we awaken to the call of beauty, we become aware of new ways of being in the world.
I’m reminded of my to-do list from my wild writing session, which was about the simple things that bring me joy. I want to feel joy again, to be aware of new ways of being.
I have to pick up the pace, I’ve lost time – a whole season! There are seeds to sow, even at this late stage, the cusp of summer. I must revisit my intentions, rediscover old habits, delight in the small details of my life, become aware of new ways of being, and find joy in the ordinariness of my days.
I chose the word ‘FLOURISH’ at the end of October as my word through to the end of the year but I’ve been hibernating through this winter of the soul, lying dormant. So now I’m pushing through — it feels like waking up from a troubled sleep. And like the transience of time, as nature has cycled into a new season, my dark winter of the soul, too, is passing.
It’s time to flourish!
As we move into the festive season, a time of vibrancy and light, warmth, ice-cream, and beach swims here in the southern hemisphere, but also cold and snow, warm fires and hot chocolate for you in the north, I wish you summertime in your heart and flourishing hopes and plans.
‘Til next time
PS: I’d love to hear your thoughts on a winter of the soul. Has your soul been through this cold, lonely season? How did you cope? What was it like to come through to the other side? Please, drop me a line or leave a comment. I always love to hear from you and by sharing, we all learn from each other.
PPS: Just letting you know that if you purchase any books mentioned here via a link to Book Depository, I will earn a (very) small commission. 😊