Winter in My Life
Winter trees, Seward Park, Seattle
It’s winter in Earth’s Northern hemisphere. Winter in Seattle. Winter in my body, my life.
Winter can be cold, dark, lonely. I think of people stuck in their homes by huge snowdrifts or living in far northern places where the sun barely rises before it sets. Traditionally, winter is also a time of warm fires, rest, gathering with family and community, sharing stories, repairing tools worn out during the growing season, preparing for spring.
I am in the last part of my life. The arthritis in my left knee, stiffness and weakness in my shoulder after rotator cuff surgery, teeth that seem to need constant repair, and wrinkled, sagging skin serve to remind me when I forget. This beloved body has walked, run, danced, driven, ridden, flown many thousands of miles: up mountains, across prairies, meadows, deserts, and oceans, down hard city streets. The wear and tear show. Actions I used to be able to count on my body to take are now harder or, in some cases, impossible. These realities can be painful, discouraging, even depressing.
I’m grateful for what I can still do. And for the experiences I have had that I can’t replicate but vividly remember. A warm fire continues to burn within me. I can sit and share amazing stories with others and with myself in those times when I want or have to be alone.
My mind still works. I’m slower to retrieve specific words at times, but my grasp of the big picture gets sharper by the day. It’s like zooming out on a map: smaller place names become illegible, but the shapes of large land masses and oceans become clearer, as do the ways they relate to each other. I am much more able than my younger self to zoom out, get perspective, and avoid getting stuck in any particular place, pattern, feeling, story. I’m happier and less anxious on a personal level, better able to meet the problems that we all really need to worry about.
Do I sometimes wish to be back in that strong, capable, fast, juicy, relatively pain-free body I used to inhabit? Yes. Does getting older sometimes suck? Yes. But I wouldn’t want to go back, to relive the agony I experienced, to give up all I’ve gained in my seven decades plus.
Modern humans in the Western world tend to value youth above all. This is a distorted view that goes against nature. If the year were always stopped in spring, flowers would not yield to seeds; baby animals and birds would never grow up to have babies of their own. The cycle of life would end. There would be no harvest, no gathering dark, no time to rest and reflect, to develop and share wisdom.
I sit in the seemingly endless darkness that settles on Seattle this time of year and treasure the light, the heat, the life within me, however long they last.