In winter, creation teaches us to rest

A snowy bench in a garden.
 on January 30, 2024

All the complicated details of the attiring and the disattiring are completed! A liquid moon moves gently among the long branches. Thus having prepared their buds against a sure winter, the wise trees stand sleeping in the cold. (William Carlos Williams)

As a relative newcomer to Canada, winter is something I am still getting used to. Being from the UK, I should be accustomed to grey skies and short winter days. Yet I always feel a sense of dread as winter approaches, as I pull out my ‘SAD’ lamp in preparation for the drop in energy I experience, and the cold, dark mornings. This is my fifth winter in Canada, but I am still surprised by it. I am surprised by the extreme cold snaps, the unexpected thaws, the heavy snowfalls, those beautiful freezing days of blue sky and bright sunshine. And I am surprised by the stillness. The absence of bird song, the inactivity of the raccoons in my garden and the cats in my house. There are no leaves to rustle on the trees, there are no ripples on a frozen lake.

I wonder if I dread the winter because I am not very good at stillness. If I made the rules, it would always be summer, and life would always be full – full of people, events, work, social commitments, travel. If I could, I would skip winter completely and jump straight into spring.

As a city dweller, I can too easily become disconnected from the natural cycles of the earth. I can forget that each season is necessary for life. The natural seasons of our world, the short days and the longer nights – they are necessary. Trees cannot blossom or produce fruit all year round. Leaves must fall to the ground and die in order for new life to begin. Animals hibernate, retreating into a safe dark place until spring. Winter is a season when creation slows down, rests, regenerates.

This winter I have been trying to learn from the stillness of creation.

Maybe I should not expect to have the same energy and pace of life in winter as I do in summer. Maybe human beings were made to join with the rest of creation in moving through the natural seasons. Seasons of energy and growth, blossom and fruitfulness, seasons of death and rebirth, rest and stillness. Maybe, for humans too, winter can be a season of rest, regeneration and renewal. In the darkness of the earth seeds germinate, begin to grow. Our bodies, too, can rest in the quiet darkness.

In a culture that treats people who are more productive as more valuable, and views busyness as a badge of honour, learning to rest can be a radical act. Activist Tricia Hersey, founder of The Nap Ministry, says that “rest is resistance.” That cultivating a deliberate practice of slowing down and choosing rest is an act of resistance against capitalism and white supremacy, systems that treat human bodies as tools for production and labour and that are driving the planet to exhaustion. She says, “I took to rest and naps and slowing down as a way to save my life, resist the systems telling me to do more… Rest pushes back and disrupts [these] systems. It is a counter narrative.”

Choosing to rest can be an act of resistance against systems that extract labour and resources from human bodies and from creation until there is nothing left. Creation teaches us that rest is necessary for regeneration and renewal. Winter reminds us that it is not natural to produce fruit all year round.

This winter I am trying to learn from creation.


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