Category Archives: Winter


Everywhere I see visions of life rising: Buds thrusting defiantly into the chilly air, shrubs growing greener with each day. I yearn to merge with the happily blooming world, but my faith in the possibilities of personal renewal is fragile.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about whether love and intimacy can return in the second half of life–after divorce, the emptying of the nest, the abrasion of body and spirit. I chide myself for wanting to revive these youthful joys in my sixth decade. How can I hope to experience such stirrings again? Have I not already used up all my chances to create life with another?

The longing to awaken my heart is achingly present on these March days. The light shines with illuminating clarity, unveiling the winter-shuttered rooms of my home and the fallen branches in my abandoned garden. Gently, like a lover pushing aside a lock of hair to gaze at his beloved and tell her what he sees, spring pulls back the curtain covering my winter weary soul and speaks to me.



It is six pm on March 1. Evening has fallen at a perfect moment. Nature’s light is dimming and indoor lamps glowing in time for homecoming, for supper.

In the pale sky overhead, silver airplanes trace their remarkable geometry as they descend: an equilateral triangle, a perfect X. Below, where I walk, I see green lines of daffodils, small squares of bright grass, spherical buds emerging bravely into a cold dry world.

Some people say the daffodil is the flower of hope because it is the first one to bloom in the spring.

Between man’s aerial artwork and nature’s botanical display, the birds swoop and dive, their high sweet voices strong and excited. Evensong bells peal their faith in Lent, in Easter, in suffering and rebirth.


Winter Still

The sound of birds and a glimpse of cornflower sky in my window pulled me out of the house this February morning, dog on the leash, limping on a broken ankle. I envisioned a brief hobble, the dog obedient on her mission, deep breaths of clear air, a few rays of light settling on my face.

A cutting wind greeted us with an unwelcome hug as I labored down the steps. The dog tugged on her leash repeatedly, almost pulling me over, then decided to pass the time eating twigs, ignoring the purpose of the trip. The landscape looked pretty desolate in spite of the pale yellow wash of light that lay over it. Dry broken twigs were scattered everywhere, snow lay in dirty patches amidst the brown grass, mud and dead leaves. What a weary scene! Winter was still a lion roaring into March.

A few days earlier life had worn a different hue. I was buoyantly convinced that Spring, just this once, was coming early. I felt lighter and stronger than I had in a long time as I strolled to lunch with my handsome teenage son. We were having so much fun.

Alas I was stepping a little too lightly and quickly for early February. My boots were too new. I fell on an icy patch of mud.

Now, three days later, I was dragging my leg, wearing high water sweatpants and a big orthopedic shoe, as the dog and I headed home through the pummeling weather.

Rounding the corner,  I was doused suddenly with a wave of morning light. It flooded my face and lingered there until I felt much warmer. Sweet hope rose in my heart.

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Posted by on February 8, 2011 in Meditations on Nature, Winter


Winter Life

A wise friend taught me the practice of looking at something beautiful every day. Today, on a brisk walk through the wintry neighborhood, there was much to admire.

The sky at noon was a rich turquoise blue, a gift blown in on a cold front from some faraway place up North. The bark on the apple tree shone silvery red in rays of sun that for a second warmed my face. Bright red nandina berries, fiery in the light, ignited a cluster of frozen shrubs. Sweet round dogwood buds and tightly furled rhododendrons curved in the direction of the light, like open hands at the altar, awaiting Spring with astonishing faith.

The rustling feathery stands of bamboo towered glamorously above their  frozen neighbors, laughing at winter. Their glowing greenery evoked warmer times to come: soft scented nights, bare feet, the song of fountains and cicadas.

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Posted by on January 20, 2011 in Meditations on Nature, Winter


Spring Cleaning

It might be the ugliest day of the year. Under a grim gray sky, a damp, penetrating chill hangs in the air. The snow is filthy, the grass streaked with mud, the streets littered with fallen branches. Every front yard has some forlorn aspect: a fallen tree, a toppled garden ornament, scraggly shrubs, bent by heavy snows.

My own house is showing the wear of a long winter. The floors and walls look sooty and drab, furniture is out of place, the kitchen is crying out for a new coat of paint and cabinet repairs. Even the dog, badly in need of grooming, is resembling a remnant of shag carpeting. Her eyes are barely visible through layers of long matted hair.

I am struggling to keep the dinginess from seeping into my soul. I look for affirmation from the outside world and feel irritable and depressed. I want to put the covers over my head and wish it all away.

The more I try to ignore the mess, the unhappier I get. There is only one solution. I need to use some everyday alchemy to transform the ugliness into beauty. It is time to grab a broom and a sponge and start anywhere. Sweep the winter grit off the porch, wash the fingerprints off the walls, and, in the words of a familiar prayer,  “cleanse the thoughts of heart and mind.”


The Best Things In Life

I have never been so glad to see anything as I was to see a tender little cluster of white crocuses in a neighbor’s yard this morning. After enduring weeks of  a winter that was rough in every way,  I stepped out into the first warm rays of early spring. It was like walking into a pair of loving arms.

These days I am quite dependent on nature’s embrace. How grateful I am that she bestows affection without prejudice. The sun’s rays fall equally on the blessed and the troubled. Birdsong and bright flowers are ubiquitous.

I am thankful that as the days have gotten longer the sun has become a playful companion, putting her radiant face up to my windows and doors, beckoning me to leave my shell of loneliness and venture out into the world. It’s as if the fingers of light playing on my drawn shades were  gentle hands reaching for me and pulling me out of my ennui, inviting me to shake off shyness and fear, dare to hope, dare to smile, dare to dance.



In the garden alongside the house, a few of the towering bamboo branches are bent to the ground, their leaves trapped under the final mounds of heavy winter snow that still has not melted. It looks as if they are permanently arched and will have to be cut down. When the snow is brushed away from one stalk, there is a surprise: it rebounds completely, assuming its full 30 foot height. One by one, as they are cleared of snow, all of the bamboo stalks sail back into place in the grove, green and strong, ready to receive the first rays of spring light.

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Posted by on February 28, 2010 in Meditations on Nature, Winter



The nest on my porch is empty now but in the spring of 2008 it belonged to a pair of robins and their two babies. After several weeks of dropping worms into eager beaks, the robin parents retreated to adjacent trees and watched the fledglings attempt to leave. At first the downy young robins stood side by side, perhaps plotting their exit strategies. Then they took off in opposite directions. One glided safely to a cluster of shrubs at the garden’s edge while the other became entangled in a piece of porch furniture. The ill-fated bird was rescued and placed back in the nest. He stood there for several days, motionless except for his darting eyes, while his parents shrieked at him from opposite sides of the porch. One day, he was gone, and so were they.

My son will be leaving home soon but the robin’s nest will remain on the porch pillar, a comforting reminder of the bond between us and between all living things.

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Posted by on February 24, 2010 in Meditations on Nature, Winter



High above the slushy alley, in the pristine air of an early spring morning, the cardinals are clearly visible: flashes of scarlet darting among dun colored branches. They are audible, too, calling out an intriguing pattern of short and long sounds:”wh wh wh wh wh wh whoooooooooooooo,” they sing over and over. In the distance the mourning doves warble their plaintive  counterpoint: “wh whoooooooooooooooo. wh whooooooo. wh whoooooooo.”

An SUV looms into view, grinding loudly and heavily up the alleyway,  greenish and enormous. For a moment it appears to threaten the birds. Perhaps its ugly sounds will frighten them and silence their songs. Eventually, it finds its place in the alley–a dirty slab of concrete beside a garden gate–pulls in and silences itself instead.

The birds do not appear to have noticed. They carry on their rhythmic chants, their search for food, their other rituals, undisturbed.

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Posted by on February 22, 2010 in Meditations on Nature, Winter



Twilight is falling noticeably later these days. At 6 p.m. the sky is still  luminous, tinted lavender and, in the west, shades of coral, pastels pale as eggshells. The path up the hill is clean and shoveled, bordered by melting mounds of snow. Overhead the birds are bolder as they dive into the winter-wild shrubs to take shelter. The air is still and soft and at the top of the hill, spring awaits in a forsythia bush thick with buds barely contained by their outer leaves, the life force pushing against the cold, the snow, the approaching darkness.


Posted by on February 20, 2010 in Meditations on Nature, Winter