March 29, 1998
(to hear a song by Erik Balkey on this vision, click here)
I painted this scene called "winter trees" the year after my husband, Cliff, died. These trees symbolized a breakthrough for me. Up until then I had always considered the cold and darkness of winter, like times of great pain, as a season merely to be endured. All of a sudden, I learned to appreciate the beauty of a stark winter tree against a sunset. I truly saw how a skeletal tree, in its own special way, is as lovely as a spring tree in its first bud, or a summer tree in full leaf, or a fall tree in radiant color.
To me now, the winter is a fallow time, a time of rest. In the winter, I go inside and lock the door and close the windows to the outside world. It feels good to be inside. Once in a while, I get snowed in by a blizzard, so I can't go anywhere. Sometimes, it may seem harsh and wrong, or I may feel punished or thwarted, because I have other things I planned to do. But then I discover the joys of being inside where it is cozy. Home becomes the place where I can cuddle up and keep warm. As I rock by the fireside, I appreciate the quiet love existing in my home. I start dreaming about who I am and what I want in my life. I take time to relax, to let my body rest. I definitely sleep more as the daylight hours are short and the nights long.
During this hiatus in my busy life, I seem to find more time to do the things which give me much pleasure. Things I often feel I must pass by in other seasons. I paint, read a book, talk at length on the phone with a friend, pray and meditate longer, or write a letter. I might even see a sad movie and have a good cry or watch a funny movie which makes me laugh until I cry. I have more time to think about the priorities in my life and to ask myself what is really important. In the end, it all boils down to love.
Some winters are long. In some spring comes early. I don't know which it will be any particular year. I learn to be patient and trust. "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?" as poet Percy Bysshe Shelley said. Our personal winters, our dark nights of the soul, are, like the earth's winters, a time when it looks as if all is dark. Nothing good appears to be happening. I know now they can represent a time of forced rest and restoration before the periods of greatest growth and emerging light. The darkness is not a God-given test of our endurance, but instead can be looked at as an opportunity our soul chooses to demonstrate its mastery in this world of great contrasts.
Winter is a perfect time to learn how God moves in and through, and lives as, all things. Spirit is just as present in a situation first appearing to be unlovable as in one which looks beautiful from the outset. As I look at someone who is struggling, I endeavor to see God present and inviolate within him. I see the beautiful life and light of God moving in and through him: restoring, revitalizing, and refreshing him. I know, whatever the appearance, this situation is not an ending, but truly an awesome new beginning. Like the spring, this is a powerful opportunity for new growth, new life, more love, and more joy.
I like to think of hard times in this way. I trust God to always take me from where I am to where I most want to be by the shortest route, given my current vibration. The shortest route does not always go through the nicest neighborhood.
It may be very hard to see,
but somehow, this, too, is God.
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