Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Midwinter Spirituality

winter tree

Holthorpe Hall

There is a sharp clarity to Midwinter. I am forced to watch and wait whilst the landscape endures its frost-bound slumber. It is as though the very cold itself is insisting that I slow down spiritually and take time to reflect, for there is much to ponder before Spring's energy bursts into view. The habitual rush of thoughts slows like a waterfall's freezing to ice in my mind. The tempo of Midwinter is 'wait and watch'. The short hours of daylight lend an urgency to my seeing. Although often dank and dismal at other times, the light at dawn and dusk has a magical quality. These are precious minutes, fleeting and demanding a quick eye lest the moment be lost with the changing light.

So it was that I saw the tree in the photograph. It was set apart, alone. The image captures exactly the pastel tones and fading light at dusk, with the frosty air still shrouding the landscape in veils of white, enveloping mist.  And with Midwinter clarity the tree reveals itself as it is. A story of death and life. Long bare branches reach to the sky in forlorn hope. Now bereft of sap, for summer treethese branches leaves are a far distant memory of a springtime which will never return. Yet that is not the whole truth for this tree. Clusters of densely packed twigs and branches suggest it is ready to embrace Spring's invitation to relish the light and warmth when they arrive. Buds will form. Leaves will unfurl and catch the sun. Sap will flow.

The tree is not perfect. Its imperfection is not hidden or subtle; it breaks the skyline like a clamour of rooks rising from their roosts. It speaks to me of what it is to be authentically and honestly human. Christine's post 'A Midwinter God' at Abbey of the Arts  explores these themes beautifully. It prompted me to work with the images of the tree, and I hope you will take the time to read it. She says:

My own multiple journeys through grief have demanded that I take the Midwinter God seriously.  That I look her fiercely in the eye until I see the reflection of my own terror and stay with it, breathe through it, begin to enter it with curiosity to see what it has to teach me about living in meaningful ways, to live a life of depth that takes seriously both suffering and joy.  I am called to become friends with the thing I hate — the inevitable loss of everything I love.  A friendship that plunges me into the precious nature of each single moment. 

Perhaps this is what the tree evokes as I gaze upon it in the Midwinter light.


  1. ...and yet simply because she is so demanding and revealing the mid-winter God can also bring a deeper comfort than her leafier counterpart....

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