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Tuesday, December 27

Calling on the Bear in Winter

After the tree is taken down and the cheery twinkle lights are removed from the landscaping... when it is no longer appropriate to play holiday music and bake cookies... that is when the gloom of winter takes hold in Mama Stacey.  Winter can be harsh and it is a struggle to find something good in it. It's easy to associate it with horrid driving conditions, a lack of fresh produce, a need for layers and layers of clothing, hiked up utility bills, dry skin and being sunlight deprived.

Pagans make use of prayer to deities and spirits when times are tough, like a person of any other faith.  Deep in winter, when my spirit is weak, I call upon the Bear.  

[Theodor Kittelsen]

These gorgeous creatures align themselves with the wisdom of Father Winter by not simply surviving the dark half of the year, but harnessing it. Winter is a great guru in that it forces us to live in darkness for a time. Darkness, solitude, downtime . . . we need these things in our lives just as much as we need activity and stimulation.

One winter, soon after my divorce and a move into a horrid rental house, I sat up all night and looked through photos. I called a girlfriend and had a cry and ultimately made a list of things in my life that needed attention. I was honest with myself about the mistakes I'd made, the things in my life that were not good for me and what I needed to improve.  My friend asked why I hadn't done this immediately after my divorce. I didn't know, but thought on that for a few days.  Ultimately, I believe it was because my divorce was in the early spring and spring/summer/fall are very active times. I kept myself busy... I kept myself distracted.

Winter took away all distraction.  It forced me to face myself and deal with some turmoils. I was glad that the snow had cleared my social calendar and that early sunsets gave me opportunity to curl up with my 2 year old son and nurse my wounds in a cozy space. I had a home business fail on me at this time as well and I'm glad that I could deal with that in privacy. Winter was my blanket to hide under, to cuddle with, and to cry into.

[Sketch by Cory Godbey]
I had found a purpose for the darkness in my life and I understood it's place. It is a time for healing, for working through pain and for completing private or personal projects.  That doesn't mean that depression doesn't come.  Pain is pain.

So, if the new year is dawning yet you cannot summon your joy, know that there may be a reason.  Take a few tips from the Great Bear:

Make a Den - Extra pillows on your bed.  Transform the sofa into a reading nook.  Build a blanket fort, complete with lights strung inside.  However you do it, make it comfortable and all yours. 

Rest - It is not insane to sleep when you are tired.  If you can't commit to sleep, you can certainly unplug and put your feet up for a bit.  I highly recommend reading.  It is crazy easy to get a library card.  

Slow Down - Maybe you don't have to run every errand today.  Maybe scale back this week's cleaning schedule.  Maybe bring a frozen lasagna instead of that over-the-top homemade thing to the potluck.  Say NO.  Anyone who expects you to leave your house after 6pm is crazy... the sun goes down at 4:30pm anyway.

Eat Lighter - Smaller plates, lighter foods.  How about a smoothie for lunch?  Fresh blueberries and walnuts for a snack.  A balsamic salad for dinner.  Six small meals instead of three heavy ones.  It's better for your metabolism and your waistline.  

Cuddle Your Children - Curl up.  Share some cocoa and a book.  They feel winter too.

[Marina Cano]

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