Get a Little Warm in My Heart as I Think of Winter

This morning I spoke about my Winter Solstice practices at the UU. Here is what I said:

Good morning.

When you woke up this morning, did you have a chore that required you to step outside for a moment? Maybe you picked the paper up off your front porch, or let your dog out or any number of other morning chores. Maybe the first time you stepped outside this morning was on your way here. If it was light when you first noticed the outside world, did you stop for a moment and notice how the crisp, frigid air and the whiteness of the snow defined that gorgeous blue sky? Did you see the bare branches of the trees and bushes that have hunkered down for their winter slumber? Even if winter is not your favorite time of year, can you appreciate its cold beauty as a shadow to the warm light of summer?

And when you have awakened in the last few months, or started on your way to work, have you been affected by the darkness in the morning, or the darkness earlier in the evening on your way home? How do you feel about all this darkness and cold? Does it make you feel invigorated? Does it make you feel a little blue? Does it make you long for summer’s long, sunny days?

Who is not affected at this time of year by a sense of, even a yearning for, community — community with your family, community with your congregation, yes, even community with those crazy shoppers out there trying to get those last minute gifts? While visits with our families can be trying, I would venture a guess that many of us have happy memories of this time of year.

I invite you to think for a moment of these things, these gifts of winter, and join with me in responsive reading #543.

I practice an earth-centered spirituality, part of the sixth source in the UU tradition. What that means for me at this time of the year is that I notice all those things I mentioned just now. And in noticing them, I become very reflective. In my tradition, winter is a time when seeds/ideas sleep before sprouting. For me, this is the time to take stock of the year that has just past and consider what seeds I have planted in the autumn months — seeds for the coming year’s personal goals. When I drink in the bone-chilling cold and skeletal trees of winter, I think of those seeds that lie in the dark earth, gathering energy to burst into life, into the fullness of what they are. I look at the bare branches and I see buds, waiting to share those beautiful spring green leaves. All around me I see potential and it helps me appreciate that for every major endeavor I am planning for the upcoming year, winter is the quiet time to plan and reflect.

Winter is the dark to the light of summer. I lived in a place of seeming eternal spring and summer — the deserts of Arizona and Southern California. And while they do have their own winter characteristics, I found that I dreaded summer there. Dreaded the rainless days of sun (I know it seems a little weird) and triple digit heat. Yes, I know it’s a “dry” heat, but 115 degrees is hot, no matter how “dry” it is. You can cook things at that heat. At any rate, I have lived in Central Illinois for three years and finally, after having true winters here, I look forward to spring and summer. I really enjoy the progression of the seasons because I believe they are reflective of the seasons of my life, both in a small and large sense. At the Solstice, which is on the 22nd this year, many earth-centered practitioners will welcome the rebirth of the sun, as the days grow longer ever so slowly. Winter helps me appreciate summer — it defines summer as a shadow defines the light.

Most earth-centered practitioners have a rich and meaningful relationship with the earth and the interconnected web of life. Earth is sacred to us and we are deeply aware of our ecological impact on her. In my tradition, we associate the four classical elements — earth, air, fire and water — with times of the day and times of the year, as well as with the four points of the compass. In my small group, we like to take the solstices and equinoxes as the time to appreciate the gifts of the appropriate element and reflect on how we use that resource. Winter is the time of earth, of midnight and is associated with the North. It is the time when we consider the use of our soil and how we contribute to its care or its abuse.

I invite you finally to listen, as I call on these elements and directions, to hear their wisdom and in particular, to find some new experience (hopefully positive) of winter as you leave church today. I will be reading #446 in the hymnal.

And I think it went pretty well. I spoke at both services and received nice feedback both times. At the second service there seemed to be a few stony faces, but really I had no negative feedback. I’m going to check in with David when I get back to see if anyone had anything to say that they weren’t willing to share with me.

I had to speak after the children left. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, but the sucky part about it is that my husband and my children had to miss it as a result because Jeff’s teaching RE right now and they’re in it. I will probably ask David if that was intentional when I ask about feedback. I mean, maybe it’s not — it could have just been a coincidence. David has told me he has a long term vision for gradually introducing earth-centered spirituality to the congregation. I really do trust his judgment on this and am reminding myself that he knows his congregation best. I believe he really does have an interest in at least increasing acceptance of earth-centered practitioners in this congregation, and he was very receptive about CUUPs.

So here’s to the long term. Today was a big step and several people seemed very pleased. I am grateful to Brighid for moving through me, giving me the inspiration to write what I did and to speak well. I truly believe I am stepping into the work I was meant to step into.

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