One of my favorite singer songwriters, David Wilcox, wrote the song “Winter at the Shore” (Open Hand, 2009). When I first heard it I immediately thought, “No, no! Surely summer at the shore is the time to sing about! Winter is when we go away and wait for summer to return again. Being a native of New Jersey, I grew up going to my grandparent’s beach house at the Jersey Shore each summer. It was filled with sunny days of playing in the sand and surf and these memories still bring a smile to my face. In the fall we would close up the house, bring the toys inside and lock the door until Memorial Day. In his song, David Wilcox sings about his summer love being gone and the lonely feeling of when all that’s left is the cold barren chill of winter. Winter can capture what we feel when we experience a lost love, a lost friend, or a dying loved one. Packing up and moving away from a familiar place can feel like winter – as can any change that requires the closing of a door you prefer would stay open. We all know what this feels like. We all know the chill of winter. But the gift of years is also that our perspective can change and we can see gifts where we may never have looked before. As I reflect on my own experience of the season of winter, I no longer see it as something to get through but rather, a space that has much to offer if only I take the time to look.
Winter a quiet season filled with shorter days. Mittens and fireplaces and heaters keep us warm. It is a season that evokes images of sipping tea and reading books. Sometimes it’s a lonely experience where closed doors and cold weather keep us inside and away from friends, but when we do venture outside it is often a very different experience. Notice the difference between a winter walk and a summer walk. We move quickly with our heads down making sure we are as covered as possible. If we push ourselves just a bit we may allow ourselves some time to linger outside and look around. Though the landscape is void of most of its vivid color and rapid movement, it is filled by quiet and subtler shades of white, grey, black and brown.
But here’s the secret: underneath there is much life and a lot of work being done. The roots and bulbs of flowers, trees, and shrubs are growing stronger by feeding on the nutrients around them and preparing for the first shoots that come with spring. It is slow work but it is necessary work. And so it goes with us if we let ourselves receive the gift of winter and be invited back into ourselves to go deeper. It is not a season of social festivities but individual work. And if we let it, it can be a respite from all the activity from the prior season. It is a time for quiet and reflection to come inside of us to see what is there - both the beauty and the shadows. Now is a time to speak calmly and clearly to what needs replenishment and what needs renovation. We need to be intentional about opening up to receive these gifts because the season of winter will be over before we know it. Inevitably the season does give way to new life and the work of winter has been accomplished for the year. As spring nudges in, the work that’s been done inside of us gets to find its way to the surface. We get to experience others and ourselves in a new way with the new wisdom and strength we’ve learned. It is truly the work that happens in the season of winter that allows us to experience the joy of spring and summer with a greater richness than if we had skipped over it or simply “gotten through”.
So Winter, I am here and open to your gift. I’ll take the winter at the shore.
Kimberly Simpson, a native of New Jersey, graduate of Wheaton College and resident of Nashville. Married and mother of three children. Lover of the ocean, gardens, yoga, cooking and travel.