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Hibernating in Winter: Heart and Hearth

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Winter is now well into its second half. The season is winding down. For most people the coming of spring is eagerly anticipated, for me it is a rather bittersweet time.

I like the winter, you see. I like the holing in and the hibernating. I value winter as a time to go inside, batten down the hatches and stay there, snug and sound. This dim quiet time is so conducive to deep rest and deep thought. During the darkest time of the year, it is possible to delve into the depth of the heart of our soul to discover the riches of wisdom buried there.

I always look forward to winter as a time of taking care of myself on very visceral spiritual, physical and domestic levels. It is a time to sleep more and dream more. A time to journal more and meditate more. To read more and write more. A time to make big pots of soup and clean and mend and iron and organize my files and my photographs.
To organize my messy mind.

Winter brings out all of my hermit tendencies and I could easily spend a week or so at home alone and never leave the house. And never miss the company of others, nor the cosmopolitan attractions. I love cabin fever! I could putter and patshkie and futz forever. And now that this blessed inside time is nearly over, I am already bemoaning all the cozy projects that I wasn't able to accomplish this year.

On the other hand, I also love to bundle up and take long solitary urban hikes in the still chill of the park, crunching through the snow, communing with the skeleton trees, scavenging pine cones and pieces of wood and bark for my fireplace. These forays make me feel like a wild woods woman who runs with the wolves, even if they are citified cocker spaniels, poodles and shitzus.

But the best part of these outings is always returning home, toes frozen and cheeks bright red, to my warm loft, inviting indoor gardens and resident fauna. I take off my boots, put on my slippers, steep some tea. Is there a more cozy luxury? Home again, home again. Jiggedy jog!

In the stark dark of the season, in the pitch of the long night, nature compels us to turn inward toward the center. Because it is difficult to see in the dark, our other senses are awakened and called into action to guide us through the gloom. If we pay careful attention, we can smell and taste the flavors of excitement, affection and creativity. If we listen very carefully, we can hear the buzz of life that surrounds us and if we keep still enough, we can feel the energizing charge that radiates throughout the universe.

Drawn by this irresistible magnetic force, we are pulled inside of ourselves for the comfort and cheer that we seek in a frozen world. We need to dig deep to feel the heat just now. The sun is absent. The air is chilled. The Earth, Herself, is cold and hard as death. The only heat left is locked deep inside the molten core in the middle of our soul.

Our heart is the center of our being. It is the buried treasure that rewards us when we dare to travel through the dark tunnels that lead us ever inwards to the essence of our spirit. It is the furnace from which radiates the heat, the power and passion of our lives. Our heart is the most honest manifestation of our authentic self. The seat of our heart's desire, the grace that lies at the heart of all that matters.

The hearth is the heart of the home. It is the high altar of the art and craft of living. Its central heat fuels the most basic and most profound daily rituals of nurturing, sustenance and loving support. The hearth stokes the healthy spirit that comes from physical ease and emotional fulfillment.

We still have four more weeks until the Vernal Equinox, when we will emerge into the light. Let us use this remaining time of darkness well. Let us explore our hearts and souls for the insight, inspiration and enlightenment that we might find there. Let us worship at the domestic shrine and share the holy sacraments of hot soup and stew, chocolate and mulled cider.

Let us open our hearts and our homes to all possibilities of comfort, warmth and light.

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