The glorious autumn leaves are gone, deciduous trees are bare, animals hibernate, and much of nature sleeps. Yet this season of winter brings quiet gifts and promises.
Winter is a time of contemplation, as the seasons of life cycle through rhythms of active and contemplative, yin and yang. To survive freezing temperatures, deciduous trees lose their leaves and become dormant. Winter dormancy is essential for most fruit and nut trees. Apple, apricot, cherries, peach, pear, and plum, almond, and walnut trees require hundreds of hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit to blossom and bear fruit. With less, they will not flourish in the next growing season. To flourish, we too, need this season of contemplation to cultivate our inner gardens
Winter is a time for pruning dormant trees and shrubs. Since roses, too, require a period of dormancy, we must facilitate this in warmer regions like my Northern California garden, by stripping rose bushes of their leaves, then cutting back the canes and removing dead and diseased wood as well as canes that crowd one another. In our lives as well, winter is a time to prune away those habits and attitudes that no longer serve us.
Winter is a time for planning. Beneath the cold ground lie many possibilities—daffodil and tulip bulbs and seeds of another spring. For many winters, I have enjoyed sitting by the window with a cup of spiced tea, pouring over seed catalogs, dreaming of what to plant in days ahead.
In the gardens of our lives, the season of winter call us to pause, to seek out quiet spaces to reflect on seasons past and seasons yet to come. Instead of the usual New Year’s resolutions, why not follow the cycles of nature this year? You can give yourself:
- The gift of contemplation: taking time to rest, read a good book, and reflect on the patterns of your life.
- The gift of pruning: asking yourself, “What no longer serves me?” What old habits and unhelpful attitudes will you leave behind? This can be anything from mindless eating to chronic lateness, procrastination, and criticism of yourself and others to harboring old resentments and feeling like a victim--whatever has been dragging you down in the past.
- The gift of planning: imagining the season to come, asking yourself what healthy new habits and attitudes you’ll adopt, what seeds you will plant, what new possibilities you will cultivate in the year ahead.
As you embrace the quiet gifts of winter, I wish you joy and renewal in the New Year.