Natural health, beauty and fashion

Choosing Winter: What I Learned on the Path of Darkness

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One thing I share with my womenfolk is a gut-wrenching hatred of the cold. Whether nature or nurture is to blame, when the temperature drops enough to make clothes a necessity (around 24°C), we wither and grow miserable. To survive, I tried migratory bird tactics on for size. I followed the sun. To my surprise, I found I had lost something on the way.

With my belly stretched out on Brazilian sand, I tried to explain to my tropical love: “You guys will never know what spring is. You have constant green and warmth, which is just heavenly – but to have spring, you must first have months of death and darkness. Like you need the rain to get a rainbow.” He blinked in polite silence – he was a child of the sun and could not understand. I gave up, believing both winter and spring would remain distant memories for years to come.

What could possibly make me live a cold dark winter, ever again?

As fate would have it, last year’s waning summer found me on the European roads, uprooted and disoriented. The days were getting shorter. My resources in cash and self-confidence were dwindling. Instead of heading south with the swallows, I let my weary feet come to a stop on the misty hills of Avalon. I was bone-tired. I’d had enough of not knowing where I was going.

To find myself again, I chose the path of darkness.

In the late autumn I worked on a farm plot. The main task was choosing which crops to “put to sleep” – cover and let rot. If you just let them be, some crops can get invaded by their hardier neighbours in the rough months. By the time spring comes, you have a big old nightmare of weeding waiting for you. By putting them all to sleep, you let Mamma earth do the weeding, and you get a clean start.

As the days turned ever more dark and grey, my walks in the incandescent leaves grew fewer. The wind howled, my hands and feet turned to ice, and I gradually retreated indoors. I had work to do: work of silence and introspection. Of regrouping, and preparing for the deeper darkness to come.

Winter is a great east wind that sweeps away the cobwebs. It blows away the pretty distractions, and makes us work for survival. When the colors and birdsong fades away, the growing silence slowly fills with the whispers of our spirit.

Am I fulfilling all my needs? My purpose? Am I generating abundance for myself and my environment? Am I living in joy?

I piled clothes on, and let things slowly rot. I opened my door to the Skeleton woman.

Winter reminds us that our days are numbered, and we should choose wisely how to spend our gifted time. In my work with ritual tattoos, I often find myself providing the rites of mourning that the collective has left behind. I witness the moments of rotting. The full stops.

Every year, the moment comes when I genuinely believe that spring will never return.

Then a daffofil pokes through the snow. I traveled and did not witness my home’s slow transition back to the warmth. Blessed by the generous sun on distant continents, I did not think the English summer would have much impact on me. I was wrong.

As soon as I hopped off the plane, the sight of the first white blossom provoked a buzz, a rumble, a roar inside me. I was hit full blast by the explosion of green everywhere, a red white pink parade of roses and elder blossoms, poppies and exuberant passion flowers. Overgrown forest paths which used to be bare, nettle leaves as large as my face and wild strawberries winking underfoot.

My whole being suddenly erupt in violent, euphoric bliss. My instinct was right, nothing can replace or accelerate this wild, raucous symphony of life that happens within and without. I tottered drunk under showers of rose petals. Feeling the throbbing power of our Green God in the landscape, in my muscles and lungs.

Everywhere I go, I am told: “Woman, you are glowing!”. I believe that’s the concentrated effect of spring: it was planted in the darkness, biding its time, coiled inside me. It waited months for its full power to be unleashed.

This week I watched the sun go down on the longest day of the year, and contemplated the things that have grown: a beautiful home, new skills for helping my community. A clearer focus. I am no longer lost.

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