To Everything, A Season
Sitting in the heart of midwinter, and entering into the darkest day of the year, I am reminded of the proverb that says: Nothing in nature blooms all year; be patient with yourself. So often in this fast-paced, ambitious, and driven world, we forget how to flow with the seasons. Ancient traditions knew and honored these ways, and they recognized each time of year, each season, as a special time, with its own potent, precious gifts and opportunities. Today however, we have so many “conveniences” that make it easy to dismiss that sacred flow. We can turn night into day, as we sit with the lights on, working on our computers into the dark hours. We can turn our tired bodies into wired bodies with caffeine and stimulants. We can push ourselves so hard that we forget to stop, and to let ourselves, like summer, be alive with inner light, and shine, shine shine. To let ourselves, like autumn, begin to turn inward and release, release, release. To let ourselves, like winter, sink down into our roots, let go of what is dead, and nourish, nourish, nourish. And to let ourselves, like spring, be resurrected and bloom forth once again in rebirth, rebirth, rebirth.
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ~ Maya Angelou
Several years ago, I had the blessing of participating in what was, for me, a life-changing program at the Awakening Arts Academy at their Oregon campus. Academy director Dana Lynne Andersen, hosted a ‘Longhouse’ during the dreary month of February, when winter in Portland seems like it has stretched on forever. What is a ‘Longhouse’? It comes from the tradition of the Native Americans living in the Pacific Northwest. In the wisdom of their indigenous culture, the dark nights of winter were filled with art, culture and community. Families left their individual homes and came together under one roof- the ‘longhouse’- a large building designed to be occupied by the entire community during the winter. In the longhouse they gathered around the fire each night. They told stories, created and shared their dances. They repaired and painted the fabric of their teepees. They did their beading and sewing. Instead of enduring the cold and dark within their isolated nuclear families, they generated the warmth of a larger community.
“The need for connection makes the consequences of disconnection that much more real and dangerous.” ~ Brené Brown
In the Pacific Northwest there is a high incidence of SAD ‘seasonal affect disorder’ as well as a high rate of depression. This happens not only because of the gray weather and lack of sunshine, but also because, as westerners, we tend to live in our separate homes, isolated from each other. And so Dana created a kind of contemporary Longhouse where we too could come together to create and to share and feel the warmth of connection. There were really no rules for the Longhouse Workshop. We just showed up each day, with whatever personal art or craft project we were working on, and we worked together, in our ‘Longhouse’ studio space. Sometimes we worked with music, sometimes in silence. Sometimes the silence was burst with laughter or the sharing of a discovery, and occasionally the group would join together to reflect. Often our sharing and reflections took place later, over community meals on the campus.
It was during that workshop that a profound piece of poetry – a little piece of wisdom that felt it was dropped down into my lap straight from the mouth of Spirit – came through out of nowhere one day, and I realized that I needed to let go of something I had been needlessly, yet desperately holding onto. That death paved the way for a greatly needed re-birth that I was able to experience the following spring, which included physically changing my location, and getting a new job. I believe that workshop was a huge part of what helped me to be open to those fruitful changes. There is something very powerful in taking the time and space to listen to the inner world. The winter months are natures way of encouraging us to go within and to attend to, and nourish our roots.