winterturn

Suspension of knowing—it's a hard concept to grasp since the attempt itself assures failure. Winter offers us a brilliant opportunity to suspend, and thereby clarify, even purify, what we might call the self, and never more so than at the time of Winterturn.

It's not a new idea, just my own word for a ancient one. Winter solstice is among the oldest cultural reference points in human history, one my society observes with an unfortunately noisy, enervating, and too-heavily frosted horrorcake of consumerism that subsumes the spiritual clarity I so need and value at this time of year. I am relieved, so very relieved, that the spectacle and its accompanying phony cloak of pseudo-religious caterwauling is finished. I know there are many others out there who feel what I feel, having crawled through it all again and survived, able to open out into blessed space and freedom.

Only now can I seek and find the silence and cold, hard light of the season that so refreshes me. Winterturn.

On the Day Circle calendar I use—itself quite ancient—there is a mark here that represents nothingness. Not nothing, but nothingness, an emptiness in the most positive sense: a receptivity that is a necessary precursor to renewal. Think of the last time you reorganized a closet in your home. You likely got to this task after a long recognition of the its necessity, until the time came when you united both the acknowledgement and the time and space to get 'er done. So you cleared everything out, and maybe you spent time lingering over various items in nostalgic bliss-and-sadness. Maybe you had boxes ready for the dumpster or the charity drop off. But at some point, there stood the object of your labors—a bare space ready to be made functional and effective, re-energized by its emptiness.

That analogy serves for this time of year for me. Winterturn is the moment when I manage to grow empty, quiet, and still. It's a pause, and it's only a pause. Soon, my responsibilities will demand my attention and duties will pour into the emptiness, but if I do what's right at this juncture, I will be able to more effectively contain and discharge those responsibilities and duties so as to leave room for creativity, capriciousness, and pockets of quietude in the months to come. The former sustain my life but the latter sustain my living. Both are necessary and having reached Winterturn, I'm confident in my ability to maintain both.

Humans have recognized and made sacred this space of Winterturn for a very, very long time. It precedes and is foundational to any modern conceptualization of it, especially the more common neo-religious and economic observances. To participate in it old school, as my son might say, is to connect with its fundamental pleasure and function. And here's the beauty of this approach—it's not hard. No special apparatus is needed. No priest needs to chant and dance, no card need be swiped, no dues need be paid. You will see no commercials for it. No songs evoking its shape will be played on every loudspeaker in every building you enter for two months.

Rather, just go for a walk. Open some time, open your mind, and open your senses. Put yourself into winter, into a landscape fully immersed in the season. Dawn, mid-day, twilight, midnight—it doesn't matter. Go into winter, move in the silence, and empty the self, however you define that. I do it by suspension. Put simply, I stop thinking and insist on immediate sensory experience. Eat a handful of snow. Smell the scrub oak leaf crushed in your palm. Stare at the black sky, star-studded, until you see things you don't know, or maybe see that you don't know things. You get the idea.

You'll come back refreshed. That's the idea. You'll be newly capable, and glad to be un-freighted, lighter for what you've left behind. It didn't matter anyway.