This post comes from contributor Kristen Hedges.
It’s nearly here. Winter. The season of natural stillness. The turn of the world slows; every pushing breeze is a sigh, exhaled long from the soft throat of the Earth. We hold our breath. Try not to let the frost finger its way into our lungs. Flowers and foliage curl into themselves and die, only to be reborn again after the ground melts and thaws. Within our own skin, the organs that keep us alive slow down. They rest. Whether we like it or not, we are a part of the season, both inside, and out.
It seems strange to me that during this time of the year we often find ourselves busier & more stressed than ever. There is a tightness in our chest. A cold fist gripped around our stomachs, making us go faster, faster, faster. With the holidays, and visiting family, and an uncle who won’t stop calling you by your sister’s name, it might seem as though life is rushing by.
But for the sake of your body, your mind, and your spirit, you must slow down. You must find sweetness in all the frozen moments.
And so, the fourth part in my 10 Sweet Little Moments series will be about the winter, in hopes that you will turn each icicle and mug of cocoa into a reason to meditate.
In the morning, when the windows are all fogged from the breath of sleep and the day has yet to unfold from the sky, pull a pair of wool socks over your toes. Do this slowly – there’s no need to rush – and feel each unroll of the soft fabric as a warm embrace on your ankle, your calf, and maybe even up to the slope of your knee. Tuck your legs to your chest and smile.
Try to feel the outside from within. In the winter, it seems that all the smells and sounds of the world have been frozen and captured in ice breath and sharp air. Each inhale sits heavy in your ribs. Before you wipe the layer of grey from the window and cup your hands to see outside, try to taste the air and guess what the weather will be like. Imagine the light of day before you see it.
When the morning has ripened and the frozen sun is out to thaw the ground, go for a walk. Bundle up, layer yourself in cardigans and jackets and scarves, pull on your boots, and hide your hands in your pockets. Just because it’s chilly out doesn’t mean that you must enjoy the day from only inside. You don’t need to be out long. Just enough to bring life back into your winter bones. Look up at the undressed trees, branches woven like a basket in the sky, and take comfort in the fact that the leaves will return. Like all things lost, they will one day be back, slightly different, and yet the same.
If you have the wonderful privilege of living where it snows, reconnect with your inner child and catch a snowflake on your tongue. What a shame it would be if an entire white winter passed by without you craning your face upwards, squinting your eyes, and tasting a bit of the fallen heavens!
When you return from your walk, pause for a breath with your fingers on the doorknob. Notice the tightness of your skin; the flush in your cheeks; the numbness in the tip of your nose. Breathe in. Then, open the door. Allow yourself to melt. Feel cradled by the warmth and comforted at your very center.
Make hot chocolate on the stovetop – the old fashioned way. Watch the milk come to a simmer and stir the bubbles away with a wooden spoon. Expand into the stillness of the moment and feel the present settle into your ribs. Right now, this hot chocolate is the only thing that matters. Rest in the breath before your first sip, and smile.
From within, watch as winter drops in frozen pieces from the sky. Spend time watching. Allow the day to slow – reassure yourself that you have nowhere to be. Nothing to do, but this. Marvel at both the good weather, and the bad. For even in the most violent of winter storms, through the world is wind whipped and ice covered, there is beauty to be found.
Pull the blankets from the hall closet and cozy yourself under all of them. Whether alone, or with a friend, toes tangled and body heat swelling to fill all the empty spaces between wool and flannel layers. Spend the day like this. Under the covers, doing nothing. There is no shame in hibernating, I promise.
Fill your home with good smells, and warm colors. Light incense and let the smoke curl around the room. Let candles burn through the day, hang wreathes on the walls and string lights from corner to corner. Mull cider, brew tea, bake cakes and pies and things with spices that simmer in your nose and linger on the tongue.
In the winter, it is important that you take comfort in your tribe. This is the season of community. When we all come together in celebration and remembrance of a year nearly passed. I challenge you to release all expectations. Set free the thought of gifts and plans gone right, and elaborate preparations for elaborate gatherings. For a while, simply enjoy the warmth of a full room. Find sweetness in the smiles shared, the hands held, the wine glasses clinked and cocoa served. Be here, in this beautifully thawing moment, and rest in the stillness of the season.