Patience, Perseverance, and Trust (and more Patience)

This is the time of year I really understand where Earth-based spirituality comes from. I know I’m not alone in feeling beat down by the bitterly cold temperatures and record-breaking snowfalls here in Chicago (where the Polar Vortex decided to build its vacation home.) While we Chicagoans are digging out for the umpteenth time this winter, my friends to the west are are struggling with dangerous drought conditions. My friends to the south are dealing with ice storms that shut everything down for days. My friends in Europe are dealing with torrential rains which bring devastating floods.

Nature just isn’t kidding around this season.

But here in this bioregion, my desire for spring’s return is deep. Bone-achingly, heart-wrenchingly, soul-crushingly deep. Even as a city dweller who has heat, running water, shelter, and a car to get to work in a climate-controlled office building – this particular winter feels like more than just a series of inconveniences. I can barely imagine what it must have been like for early Pagans whose lives and livelihoods were governed by the seasons and the weather and how they managed to get through this intense a season. But this time of year, and this time of year in this year in particular, I get what it means to pray for spring — to really, truly, and sincerely pray for spring.

When I participate in an elemental invocation in ritual, one of the things I often ask is for that element to be my teacher. I might ask Fire to teach me what it means to consume and transform. I might ask Water to teach me what it means to soften and dissolve. What I ask for really all depends on the ritual intention and what I am focusing on at the moment. It’s all part of a personal effort I’m making to really connect with the “Earth-based” part of Earth-based spirituality – particularly as someone who lives in the city. I try to do this outside of ritual as well, observing natural patterns and cycles, and trying to see what I can glean from those processes to understand and nurture my own work.

Reframing this challenging winter as a season with something to teach me isn’t necessarily helping me accept it, mind you. But it does shift my perspective a bit.

This winter is teaching me patience and perseverance. (Okay… maybe just perseverance.) I’ve been watching the trees outside my office window. I remember last year at this time they were already budding. This year, there is no way that sap is even remotely ready to flow just yet. Sometimes the process takes longer than I expected or want it to, and even when it happens, there may be setbacks. Some cycles take time. This is a good reminder for me in several aspects of my life: dealing with a medical issue where my healing process doesn’t seem to be on the same schedule as most folks who have been similarly afflicted, slogging through a job search that feels overwhelming and fruitless, sitting with an ongoing interpersonal conflict that just is going to take time to resolve… I’m praying for spring in a lot of areas of my life, and this winter is teaching me to deal with it day by day. “Put on your boots, go out and shovel, scrape the ice off the windshield — persevere, and know that spring will come,” says Winter. “Even when it feels hopeless, spring will come. Even when you have forgotten what green looks like, trust that spring will come.”

But for now… wait. Be silent. Listen. Stay warm. Dream. Remember. Trust.

Spring will come.

I’m curious about what this season is teaching you, no matter where you live. What does Nature have to say about your own work? What does winter want you to know? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Perhaps we can be inspired by each other. And stay warm! (or dry! or wet!)

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If you want to join Expanding Inward in celebrating spring’s return (or at least continuing to pray fervently for it), then consider coming to our first residential event just outside of St. Louis. We’ll be working the story of Orpheus and Eurydice – and since we’re going to the Underworld anyway, it might be a good time to ask Persephone to come home and bring the springtime with her. At the time of this posting, there is one space left. Is it yours? Visit the event page for more details – but do it quickly! It’s not going to be there long!

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