When winter is just around the corner, and the earth begins to go to sleep, it can be difficult to retain a sense of exuberance and enthusiasm. Programmed by nature to follow her patterns, we too want to sleep. But sometimes, during moments of late summer light and lukewarm breezes, we can feel a little sad about the approaching slumber. We may want to fight against this period of lull and remain in the shadow of the full summer sun and ignore with all our might this need to rest, recuperate and slow down.
We can ward off a winter depression or dip on the radar by recognising this transition as the perfect time to plant the “bulbs of contentment.” Just as good gardeners prepare for the spring, we can also plant bulbs deep into the brown earth to flower in all their glory come the first days of spring. There is something almost royal about crocuses blooming like a raised goblet, bright yellow daffodils standing to attention and tulips in all shades of the rainbow lining the paths upon our return to outdoor life. But without planning and preparation, there can be no pageantry to greet us.
To receive a greeting worthy of our gallantry, we must sow our garden beds. Good things take time and a little effort so we must enter the wintery season holding tightly to the last speckle of the sun’s energy. The gift of wonder and anticipation is in a golden sunbeam of enthusiasm, a brightly flashing ray of glitter or a glistening drop of dew. We remember these earthly gifts in order to cultivate our own.
The hard casing of the bulb protects the seed of our imagination. To ignite the power of the seed to propel it upward, we must nurture it. To plant it in nutritious soil, to keep it warm, to provide the right conditions for growth. We can do this through artistic activity.
Winter is the perfect time for what I call the ‘nourishing arts’. These are things which take us away from our worrying and fretting and the busyness of life into the repetitive, satisfying rhythms of our hands. Knitting, embroidery, stitching, laying batts of fleece, spinning wool, layering oil paints, journaling, charcoal drawings and pencil sketches and even typing on old-fashioned typewriters are examples of practical activities that allow us to surrender the goings-on inside our heads and move energy to the tips of our fingers and toes. In these arts, our minds can rest, which creates a space to be filled with fresh thoughts and enthusiastic energy. In these moments, we heal ourselves. Rest becomes recuperation, the perfect ground for contentment to grow.
In winter, we prepare the ground for new growth. We actively guard our creative flames, and guide new growth upwards towards the sun, rather than sideward or toward being root bound. We develop fortitude, which my dictionary describes as “courage in pain or adversity,” through sleep and preparation for a new day without the stress of ‘life in full swing’ demands. We sit, in our rocking chairs of contentment, celebrating the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah seasons and rejoicing in the spaces that a celebration creates for rest, relaxation and family, friendship and memory making.
Spending time in artistic activity and rhythm cultivates qualities of serenity and can lead us to what is known in yogi circles as Santosha. This is a state of contentment, being happy with things just as they are, wanting nothing more. We make art for art’s sake and spin, bake, and knit, not for the outcome they provide but for the inner peace that is generated from the activity itself, and sometimes the joy of gifting or sharing what we have created. Santosha is a state where we worry less about ourselves and strive more to bring something of goodness to our local community. The world of the internet can allow us to share our love across borders, ranges and seas. It is through artistic activity that we set the bulb free and unleash all that is good and wholesome inside her out towards the sun. This is how we emerge, in the fullness of spring, happy and filled with bright colour, light and life, ready to just ‘be’ once again in the world. It is no wonder that a joyful honey bee is attracted to such a sweet smelling flower!
Amber is Mama to Ned (2) and Henrietta (15) . Amber is a writer and teacher, currently completing her book on creative strategies for parenting. Amber worked in Steiner/Waldorf early childhood education for over ten years and keeps her hand in this work through two home based “Moondew” Playgroups. Amber’s passion is working alongside women of all ages to support them to ‘fire up their creative spark’. Her blog is Mamamoontime. She lives for creativity, beauty, truth and goodness.
Some photography by Julia Daby.