Mind of Winter

During these slow, cold winter months, the raw quickenings of Spring that I look so forward to each year can begin to seem more like a fever dream than an inevitability. Recently, a lonely inner chill slowed me to a still point of sorrow and depression, from which I’m now emerging.

Depression seemed to have affected many people I know lately, even when things were going fairly well in our daily lives. And when we were worried about the current dire political situation, money, loved ones, work or lack of work, or enduring ill health, each gray day fell like an isolating hammer blow.

When I was in the thick of depression, I remembered (once again) that it’s vital to take at least a few minutes each day to actively care for myself. The Greater Good in Action website sponsored by University of Berkeley offers practical ways to handle stress or sadness — such as this Self-Compassion Break — that can offer subtle, but real relief.

Perhaps more than anything else, the thing that helped me back into light  is a poem I have turned to many times before, Wallace Stevens’ The Snow Man. Here, his observation of the mind of winter and the winter of our minds becomes a hymn of acceptance. The poem reminds us of the capacity we have within us to simply be what we feel and see, rather than label them negatively.

And so, in a moment of attentiveness, we know we are fully connected to the world.

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.