We stand today at the gate of the year as winter tightens its grip on the land. The trees are bare, the air is bone chillingly cold and a freezing fog is bringing an early darkness to our valley. The Christmas lights have been dimmed and the frenzy of the season has dissipated. There are no more distractions to come between us and the reality of the season. Statistically, it is often after the Christmas season that many people experience a darkness and emptiness within. When we become disconnected from the great cycles of nature, we fail to hear her story and to recognize that nature’s story is also ours. So as we stand in winter, at the gate of the year, what story is nature inviting us into?
It is the story of the fertile possibilities hidden within the apparent emptiness and death of this harsh season. I am reminded of T.S.Eliot’s poem “Journey of the Magi.” This is no sanitized Christmas story. The magi take the difficult journey in the dead of winter “Just the worse time of the year/For a journey, and such a long journey” Yet they persevere, obeying the call to step into the void of uncertainty, unaware of the profound change it will bring. They travel in darkness and the cold of winter on a journey that brings no comfort or reassurance, instead “With voices in our ears, saying that this was folly…” In telling his story, years into the future, the magus questions whether a death or a birth took place, for, on their return home, their old certainties have shifted and they are “…no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation…” However, though it was a long time ago and a very difficult and painful time, the magus states,” I would do it again…” He recognizes that birth and death are one experience. Though this birth was “…hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death…” he does not regret the journey.
The year ahead is the unknown that we step into with trust, aware that the only certainty is change. The dying of the year is a great time to let go of what no longer serves us, be it material things, relationships that have run their course, outmoded perspectives or ways of being. Today we stand between the death of the old year and the possibilities dwelling in the fertile emptiness of the untraveled year ahead. It is still an unwritten story and one that will bring us light and darkness, joy and sorrow, birth and death but also the joy of discovery.