A Loving Gaze in Springtime

by | Apr 7, 2022

Spring is inching closer. A time of new life, buds on trees, green popping up all around. A truly lovely time of year.

And yet, a book I finished this past week caused me to wonder about those whose experience does not align with this new season. Although we will soon be surrounded with an awakening world, what if it is still feels like winter in our heart?

The book I finished is called Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, and it is a meditation on what we might call our personal winter, a season that settles over our inner landscape. Here is how the author Katherine May describes it:

Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider. Perhaps it results from an illness or a life event such as a bereavement or the birth of a child; perhaps it comes from a humiliation or failure. Perhaps you’re in a period of transition and have temporarily fallen between two worlds…However it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful.[1]  

It is a difficult description to read (at least for me), offering a stark contrast to the associations we typically have with springtime. But this is my point. This is the experience some people are having at this very moment. Despite spring’s arrival, they are still in the midst of winter.

Maybe this is your friend right now. Maybe it is you.

As the days lengthen, warm, brighten, how might we honor the wintering souls around us? Or our own wintering soul?

Though I cannot answer these questions definitively, I am reminded of Jesuit theologian Walter Burghardt’s description of contemplation: a long loving look at the real.

To gaze lovingly at a hurting friend, or at our hurting self. To gaze lovingly, with gentle and kind eyes, and without language – this is one way we might honor a wintering soul. One way we can wordlessly indicate, I see you.   

[1] Wintering by Katherine May (pg. 10–11).