Rebecca Robinson

Each season contains within it a gift. Spring teaches us to grow and strive for the light. Summer teaches us to blossom and bloom. And autumn teaches us how to let go, how to fall with grace. What wisdom, then, does winter hold within its frozen heart?

As I write this, we are now on the cusp of spring – yet winter is still very much with us. Here in the UK, we have been buffeted by storms, sleet, and snow. Nevertheless, a new season is on the way, and we can sense this subtle shift and smell the change in the air.

Although we are often glad to see the back of winter, welcoming those longer, lighter days of spring and the sense of new life growing, winter contains within it deep wisdom. The dark, cold days of winter can be hard for many of us, leaving us yearning for the sweet scent of spring flowers and fresh-cut grass.

In wintertime, we – much like the sleeping seeds hidden beneath hard earth – tend to go indoors and turn inward. It is in those wintry moments, those times when we turn our gaze within, though, that we gain wisdom from the harsh, icy road we have travelled.

Yes, winter can be a time of deep discomfort. The sharp slap of freezing wind on our cheeks shocks us, and we feel as if the world has become a barren place. We walk with slate-grey skies above us and frozen earth beneath our feet, in a place of isolation where all we see are the bare bones and skeletons of trees.

This is, of course, one way to look at the bleak midwinter – but another way, and the way I choose to see it, is to look upon it with eyes of wonder.

Winter may be harsh, but it is also the season of sparkle and serenity, of stillness and softness, with all the grace and hush of soft-falling flakes of snow. “It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it”, said the American author, John Burroughs.

Winter is the time of the soul and the season of stories. It is the time when we naturally turn to fireside, hearth, and home, drawing ourselves closer to the flame to read a book or weave tales that long to be told.

When it is cold outside, we seek out the warmth within – and we discover that our inner fire, our inner light, offers us all the sunshine and heat we could wish for. Within us is an indomitable strength and spirit that burns brightly throughout every season – but the beauty of winter is that it reminds us of this inner spark. It teaches us to stoke it and fan it, to rely upon it and tend to it – to remember this small but mighty flame.

With wintertime, too, comes wisdom and a chance to dream and plan, to rest and restore. As we gaze upon a glittering, crystalline world, woven with fairy tale frost, we see that snow has rewritten the landscape, blanketing everything with a sense of pure possibility.

In winter, the world becomes a blank canvas, an unwritten page. The story of spring and summer has yet to be written upon the earth, and the rose garden that will bloom at midsummer is, at this point, still but a dream in the mind of nature. “Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius”, said 16th-century Italian poet Pietro Aretino. When the world winters, and we winter too, let us not forget that below ground is the fizzing of new life, new ideas, new wonders.

There is an undeniable beauty and magic to the glisten of a shimmering landscape. Winter casts its spell each year, an icy enchantment that bewitches us – and it can be a charm or a curse depending on our perspective.

The English poet and mystic William Blake once said, “In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy” – and there is much to enjoy about the frostiest months of the year.

When winter waves its icicle-wand, it has the power to weave wonder into our hearts and minds and invoke a sense of playfulness that, as adults, we sometimes forget. It is not only children who feel the excited urge to rush out and build a snowman, to make snow angels and taste a snowflake on their tongue, or to throw snowballs. Winter brings out the child in all of us – and that is no bad thing. I would rather wear a snowsuit than a pinstripe suit any day of the week.

Winter is both playful, profound, and at times painful. It has its own poetry, its own rhythm, its own cadences. Winter speaks its language – a language of snowfall, cinnamon, and spruce. A language of bittersweet enchantment.

When the leaves of summer die back and fall like autumn leaves, and when the last rose has bloomed, we feel a deep sadness – but we know that those flowers will come again, nourished by what came before.

To quote John Burroughs again, “He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.” Winter is one section, one segment, one part of the whole which together makes up the wheel of the year – and there is something undeniably comforting, steadying, and reassuring about the regularity and rhythms of the seasons and cycles of nature.

So, in those moments when winter leaves you cold, look for its frosted handwriting written upon the trees and see what wisdom it has left there for you.

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