by Circle of Trust Facilitator Paul Michalec
Here in Colorado we are experiencing the fullness of winter
conditions and the importance of slowing down and turning inward for
warmth and self preservation. On cold and gray days, with the sun low
in the horizon, a person’s identity is obscured under layers of
clothing and blurred by passing snow squalls. Wrapped in a cocoon of
warmth people look like self-contained universes spinning through the
snow and ice as they complete the day’s business.
Circle of Trust work invites me to consider winter’s metaphorical qualities in my personal and professional life. I’m mindful of the challenges I face when projects aren’t completed on time or I strongly disagree with a colleague around who should take the lead on a task. Instead of dwelling on disappointment, doubt, or failure, our principles and practices encourage me to consider the light- and life-giving aspects of winter. For instance, winter’s isolation, although rarely pleasant, becomes an opportunity to listen attentively to my inner teacher. It is my experience that the darker and colder my professional or personal winter the greater is my opportunity to hear and name my most precious inner beliefs and gifts.
This poem by Elizabeth Coatsworth speaks
to the mysterious and wonder-filled potential of winter to open up new
insights into the core of my being, which I believe is as mysterious
and steady as the path of a winter moon. I invite you to read it and
listen for words or images that speak to your heart about winter’s
sense of deep wonder and invitation to journey in mystery.
On a Night of Snow
Cat, if you go outdoors, you must walk in the snow.
You will come back with little white shoes on your feet,
little white shoes of snow that have heels of sleet.
Stay by the fire, my Cat. Lie still, do not go.
See how the flames are leaping and hissing low,
I will bring you a saucer of milk like a marguerite,
so white and so smooth, so spherical and so sweet -
stay with me, Cat. Outdoors the wild winds blow.
Outdoors the wild winds blow, Mistress, and dark is the night,
strange voices cry in the trees, intoning strange lore,
and more than cats move, lit by our eyes green light,
on silent feet where the meadow grasses hang hoar -
Mistress, there are portents abroad of magic and might,
and things that are yet to be done. Open the door!
For me, the invitation in this poem to experience winter’s wonder as an opening up of my life’s potential lies along two dimensions. The first occurs when I think of the Cat as my metaphorical soul or inner source of personal wisdom. As much as I might seek, for good reasons, to protect my soul from the harsh elements of winter’s stormy nights, my soul still “knows” the value of getting out and into this unknown world of the night. Have you ever found yourself as a teacher, community leader, doctor, or clergy being called into moments and places that felt inhospitable, only later to realize the potential for self-learning associated with the “portents abroad of magic and might”?
When this happens to me I
often wonder how my soul knew what my head and ego did not know or care
to act on. I value the way my winter soul can take risks and pull me
out of my comfortable existence, calling me into a relationship with
the universe that is humbling in its expansiveness.
second part of this poem that grabs my attention is the poet’s word
choice between the two stanzas. She uses the exact same words:
“Outdoors the wild winds blow” but I hear a strikingly different
intention as the poem transitions from stanza one to stanza two. My
head, much like the Mistress is cautious around winter’s harsher
qualities and often responds with avoidance and self-protection. What
value, my mind asks, is there to being cold, wet, and frozen to the
bone when staying inside avoids all that nastiness? Have you ever
avoided plunging into the heart of a personal/professional snowstorm
for fear of losing your way?
If I pay close attention I can hear my soul, like the Cat, praising the virtues of wonder and mystery for the unknown. The words “Outside the wild winds blow” become an invitation to be out and about in winter watching for the deep lessons of personal/professional meaning to emerge. My experience with winter suggests that the wilder the winds and the deeper the snow drifts the more there is to be learned. I know this to be true, and still it is a challenge for me to set aside the comforts of the fire for the cold hard-truths of winter.
I invite you to think about your experiences with winter: Has anything ever materialized as a learning that you would have missed if you had not answered the call to go outside where the wild winds blow? What might it take for you to “open the door” and allow your soul to wander around the winter landscape of your personal or professional world? Do you have any fears or uncertainties that keep the door closed or only partially open? Please add your comments here.