Giving winter a chance…


Winter light on barn

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How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose, if there were no winter in our year.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

I live in a little town called Almonte, Ontario. I moved here six years ago, from Canada’s capital, Ottawa, but I’ve never really lived here. Why? Because for these last several years we’ve always been away for the winter and spring, down south on our sailboat, Windsong II, which I adored, and which we have now sold.

You may have seen a few of my pictures and posts (smile) of our adventures crossing to the Bahamas from Florida and enjoying an active, exciting and relaxing life on the water. I feel so alive when I am always outside, feeling the warm sun and wind on my skin. I hate the expression “living the dream,” but it kinda was…

I make no secret of the fact that I am NOT a winter person. I do not enjoy being cold and I’m not really into outdoor sports. I used to skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, but after a nasty experience with an icy bump and a broken elbow and another with bruised knees my enthusiasm for skating came to an end.

When we decided to spend this winter in Almonte, I wondered how I might survive this period. Then I stopped thinking about it. Christmas was coming and there was much to be done and lots to occupy my thoughts. The grandkids were back from the North and this was the first Christmas we would get to spend with them in a good while. Then my family arrived to spend a few delicious days.

When my sister and I get together, we always try to get out together and do some photography. This time it was friggin’ cold! And there was an Alberta Clipper that arrived on December 31.  We decided to go out anyway to see what we could see. We started by checking out the Almonte Falls, which were coated in ice. Then we drove around the back roads to see what this picturesque area looks like under a blanket of white snow. We came upon the Auld Kirk, a church established in 1836. It’s a beautiful stone building that I have photographed at other times of the year. But in a snowstorm it was magical.

My sister says that my time in the south has softened me up for winter. (I think I was always pretty soft.) I admit I wore the wrong gloves and was cursing my frozen fingers the whole time. But I thoroughly enjoyed getting out there with my camera, so much so that I went out again a few days later when it was a bit warmer.

So what inspired this change of attitude? A realization that has been dawning lately that opening to life means opening to what we don’t like and what we resist as much as what we do like.

As Jack Kornfield says:

True equanimity is not a withdrawal; it is a balanced engagement with all aspects of life. It is opening to the whole of life with composure and ease of mind, accepting the beautiful and terrifying nature of all things. Equanimity embraces the loved and the unloved, the agreeable and the disagreeable, the pleasure and pain. It eliminates clinging and aversion.

I’m not saying this is easy, just that it feels necessary.

Also, I’ve been deeply influenced by John O’Donohue, so these words of his rang true:

At the heart of things is a secret law of balance and when our approach is respectful, sensitive and worthy, gifts of healing, challenge and creativity open to us. A gracious approach is the key that unlocks the treasure of encounter… A reverence of approach awakens depth and enables us to be truly present where we are. When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty of things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and the arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace. Beauty is mysterious, a slow presence who waits for the ready, expectant heart.

Maybe if I walk on the earth with greater reverence, including in winter — being truly present to where I am — the concealed beauty of things will be revealed to me. I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out…

14 thoughts on “Giving winter a chance…

  1. Pingback: Can’t Keep Up With the World of Photography? Chill. We’ve Sorted it – Daily News & Tecnology

  2. I love how your acceptance and awareness unfolded despite some of the unpleasantness. I had no idea you two sold Windsong. That had to be a difficult decision also. I can imagine part of your reluctance to this winter. But I love that you went into it intrigued and open. That’s similar to what I’m planning on doing in 2017 — being serendipitous rather than goal-oriented but with a view to roaming new roads and discovering what is around each bend.

  3. Somehow after reading this post, and even before, I know that this winter will bring you a new perspective on all that we are given to enjoy. Not everyday, because believe me, I hate it when it gets really friggin cold also…but I do like to go out in the winter quiet, with winter white in the woods…it’s a quiet like no other. Not even many birds chirping so when they are, I hear them quite profoundly. Already, in this one slide show, you have found such beauty and reverence…you are going to be just fine.
    Keep the wine and tea at the ready and stack up a good pile of books for those days when you say…Hmmm,” not today” to your camera.
    On a side note, we are only going to be gone to St. Maarten for one week this I’ll be getting lots of winter in myself…xo

  4. Dear Sherry: such a thoughtful, open-hearted post with the image of the old barn, itself a symbol of gracious beauty. Thank you! Once again, you inspire me to look at the world with fresh eyes. This morning it’s a magical, last night’s heavy snowfall transforming tree branches into white deer antlers. A fragment of a Mary Oliver poem comes to mind:

    Wherever else I live–
    in music, in words,
    in the fires of the heart,
    I abide just as deeply

    in this nameless, indivisible place,
    this world….
    which is faithful beyond all our expressions of faith,
    our deepest prayers.

  5. HI Sherry, What a beautiful post. I love how your acceptance unfolded as you told your story. Having happily and enviously followed your warm weather adventures, I am intrigued by your major change in lifestyle. Your first set of wonderful images show that you’ve already begun to embrace it. One line in your quote, “When we walk on the earth in reverence, beauty will decide to trust us.” really hit home. Wishing you new inspiration and warm gloves in 2017! 😀

  6. Years ago when I vacationed I went skiing because being a Floridian living in sun and surf I could not very well have an interest in going to Hawaii. Now years later I visit colder climates but don’t enjoy the cold as much but have good memories of the beautiful snow scenes like the one shown in your latest post. Have a wonderful new year. Joan

    Sent from my iPad


  7. Impressive thoughts Sherry and a joy to read but your photos were the ice-ing(!) on this most gorgeous of posts –

  8. Some good lessons here – especially for another self-avowed, “I’m not a cold weather person”. Photography is a real challenge for me in winter, lots of brown and grey hereabouts. This year I’ll follow your lead and try to do better. I shall miss your Windsong stories but I look forward to sharing winter with you.

  9. Great post Sherry, very inspiring. I am not a winter person either – which hasn’t been much of a problem, where I live, until recently. This year we are experiencing ongoing low temperatures (laughable to people in Central Canada or the North to call them this, I know – but certainly lower than we’re used to), and I’ve been having trouble motivating myself to get outside for any exercise, let alone photography. My fingers freeze, even with so-called warm gloves on. Today it’s sunny and dry – no snow here, I’m happy to say – and it is COLD again, more so than yesterday. I’ll try to remember your words as I contemplate going outside. Happy new year to you!

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