In the decades of my life I have seen the seasons come and go more times than I care to admit. This time around, winter is quite different from the last five which were spent in the Bay Area of California. Being back in the northeast in what I once would have called the “dead” of winter, I find that the season is anything but.
Yesterday, for example, I paid a quick visit to the shores of Lake Ontario, and though it felt brisk, the world was bathed in bright sunlight. Later, as we walked the dog on a trail around a large pond, I could not help but notice her glee as she jumped around in the snow, enlivened by the crisp air and the elusive flocks of geese which she chased to no avail.
The winter storms come and go, but the beauty of earth remains vital, brimming with the joy of life. It is easier to see on a bright sunny day, but it is no less present on the cloudy ones. I need to remind myself of that once in a while.
If we’re taking all the cues from our environment, waiting until all conditions are exactly right before we can feel joyous, contented or secure, then we miss about ninety percent of the life we came here to live. What I’ve come to understand–better late than never–is that it takes a daily grounding of energy to live that life fully, to create new reality with purpose, and to enjoy the path far more than the intended destination.
Sometimes I get a little caught in the storms of life. The trauma of loss gets stuck in my body and captures my brain. Regret for an old choice stymies my vision of a future possibility. Stress becomes an addiction that drives my present moment, blinding me to the very blessing that sits right in front of me. These are the tempests, the earthquakes, and the fires of life, and like the prophet Elijah, we may call for an expression of God in a big splash of the Divine that all the world can see.
But as we all know innately, we don’t find “God” in a mighty north wind, nor in the shift of tectonic plates, nor in the conflagration of driven flames. All that we call God comes to us in a still, small voice. When we become practiced at quieting the mind, we can move toward the healing of trauma, the cleansing of regret, and the relinquishing of stress.
This is what I believe prayer to be, not the begging of a far off deity to change its mind, but the daily movement of my own soul into the glory of a winter sunshine ever filled with the promise of more.