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Winter Light

             One of the things I like most about wintertime is the light.  I like how the angle of the sun in the sky creates contrasts of light and shadow: the grizzled bark of  branches across weathered barn wood; the goldenness of straw against the winter sky; how, like low tide, the dropping of leaves makes things deep in the woods visible again. The light unhides things. 

More than ever, with the coming of winter, the light reveals the missing vibrancy of life that surrounded us just a few months before.  It pokes below the eaves of our rooftops, into last year’s empty paper wasp nests, and deep through our windows to our back walls where hang the gray pictures of our ancestors. It reflects off the bare bones of branches and filters down into the crags and hollows of our lives as surely as it now warms the forest floor.  The sunlight has a piercing silence to it. 

Even with the coming of the days of layers upon layers of winter clouds, blanketing us under a shroud of winter stillness, it is there, captured in the silence of winter snow – glinting in the falling flakes, glistening in the melting ice, reflecting the crystalline images of winter in streams and ponds.  The light is persistent.

For many of us, the winter brings a time of sadness; even a time of emptiness and longing for things past –  or a foreboding of things in the future.  I believe the cause is more than the shorter days of winter.  I believe it is the nature of winter light, itself, that frightens us into turning toward the winter shadows of our natures.  Largely freed from the biological demands of life, the light illuminates the deepest recesses of outer and inner nature.  In the time of nature’s sleeping, the light brings an overpowering stillness.

If we allow it, we can become part of that which is revealed by winter light. Even as everything in the outer world is illuminated in the sharp contrasts of the winter landscape, our emotional, mental and spiritual lives are laid bare to ourselves in that light.  The stark simplicities of the winter cycles leave little outer stimulation in contrast to the other seasons – and, by contrast, our inner world becomes more vivid to us. 

We are creatures of Nature, after all, and the winter light slows us and turns our awareness inward, like the sap in the trees.  Here, too, the light unhides things.  Our own natures are revealed in the piercing silence and persistence of the light that contrasts what gives our lives meaning and what doesn’t; between what about us brings satisfaction and what we need to work on in ourselves.  If  we exert the courage to not turn away – if we follow the light of insight into ourselves, we can discover many wonderful things.

Before being creatures of Nature, we are creatures of Spirit.  And the light of winter that unhides us in its piercing silence and overpowering stillness?  That persistent light is not just physical, but spiritual as well.   

The association of light with spirituality is not symbolic or metaphoric: it is a literal representation, ranging from the light of insight that illuminates what we sometimes don’t feel ready to see, to the actual inner light of spiritual transformation that eventually comes by following “the still small voice” of insight. 

Winter light brings an invitation for us to look within ourselves.  In Native American cultures, the place of North on the Medicine Wheel is the power of  winter, represented by the color of white, which symbolizes spirituality. It is the place of purity, wisdom and healing; the time after midnight, the dreamtime.  We are invited by winter to stop and listen, to rest and contemplate. The power of the spirit of the North brings renewal and the quickening of the spirit. The time of winter is when nothing appears to be growing, yet even as Mother Earth is gathering her energies for the coming spring, we are invited to go within and gather our energies from the Source during this time of silence and stillness.

This year, I hope the winter light will bring new and deeper meaning to your life. Go willingly where it takes you – both in nature and in yourself.  See what it reveals to you and accept its meaning.  Come the following spring, life will return in its fullness to every forest and field, and also to you.


Granville Angell   © 01/2007


Granville Angell, EdS, LPC, NCC, is the local author of The God-Shaped Hole – A Story of Comfort for The Child in All of Us. Email him: angell(AT)transitions-counseling.com, call his private practice, TRANSITIONS , at 704-276-1164; visit his web site: www.transitions-counseling.com, where you can read prior articles.


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