Yesterday morning, I flew into Cleveland Hopkins Airport from New York, to spend Christmas at home with my parents. It was an eventful morning – getting out of New York the Monday after a blizzard, during which many weekend flights were cancelled proved difficult, although not impossible. I’d never seen LaGuardia Airport so busy, let alone at 5 in the morning! Upon landing, I was interviewed for a story on travel delays by Cleveland’s local Channel 5 News.
Cleveland’s proximity to Lake Erie gives it an advantage for yielding white Christmases due to what is known as “lake effect snow,” and it’s been snowing gently ever since I arrived. This evening, officially the longest night of the year, I took a walk on the grounds in front of my parents’ house to take in the brisk air, and reflect on this season of hibernation. The short hours of sunlight, the life of plants dried into brown, crisp carcasses, the stillness of animals hidden or sleeping or having flown south, all laying groundwork for looking deeply inward – for letting go of last year’s harvest, and preparing to start fresh next year. Decay brings both sadness and, then, new life. We cannot reach the new life without the period of decay. Winter asks us to go inward, to slow down, to unravel. And, unravel, many of us do this time of year – with old family scars and triumphs revisited, with familiar patterns reignited through reminders of our youth, and with appreciation for what has unfolded in our lives, and how far we’ve come.
Many Christmases I’ve looked out these giant windows at my parents’ country home, and many times I’ve pondered my past and my future from the presence of a winter trip here. This year, something is new for me. I have no regrets. I am just observing. I am looking at where I came from, where I went, and where I might go from here, and this year, none of it feels so dire, yet all of it feels worthy of acknowledgment. Perhaps my youthful days of pushing and fighting as if I must stake a claim on my desires and demand their fulfillment are decaying under the snow, as nutrients for a blossoming attitude of acceptance and full presence in who I am, with trust in the way things always unfold. Perhaps the right amount of self-belief and effort are developing in me as I grow older, and like the seasons, something is turning in me, as my own pure nature makes appropriately tantamount my ego. Fighting and pushing are devices of excess, and the correct effort requires far less. In this dark, quiet time, I am glimpsing what I knew when I was five years old, when I fought for nothing, but just consistently did my best; and took a stand not through taking one, really, but simply by abiding in what is right.
There are certain things we come back to every year, like the darkness of winter, and there are things that have longer seasons. If we can let ourselves sink down, past the cerebral hustle and bustle, down past the sensitive heart that takes cover behind shields of laughter and defense, deeper, to a place where the movement is nearly imperceptible, like cells dividing in preparation of a new organism, we can find the microscopic turning of our own inner seasons. It manifests signposts as drastic as the heat of summer or the cold burn of snow. Yet, deep within, it is as mild and constant as our own breath, and the earth in its revolve around the sun.