by Rev. Kathleen McTiguetreestarsblog

As we move into the new year in this fraught political moment, many of us are coping with new levels of anxiety. There is a lot to worry about, as each day the headlines seem to hammer us with more bad news. It can feel like we’re in the midst of a great unraveling, with so much that we care about at risk – from the most basic human rights to the health of our earth.

Even when there are very good reasons for fear, it’s worth remembering how much room it takes up in our hearts and minds, and what gets displaced if we let it take over. Fear shrinks our world, because it draws our attention over and over again to itself, like a constant pain in our bodies. Fear tells us to circle in, shrink down, lower our expectations, and hunker deep into our little shells to weather the storm.

A deliberate act of will won’t let us banish anxiety and replace it with courage or equanimity, but there are lots of practices we can adopt that will give more space for the things we find life-affirming. I keep hearing stories from people who are making more time for community, in all its forms, leaning hard into the connective power of love. Fear’s pronoun is singular: I’ve got to watch out for me and mine. Love’s pronoun is plural: we’re in this together, and together we can grow things that will blossom even in a time of drought. Spiritual practice is an antidote, too: anything that calms our breathing and lets us listen to the patient rhythms of the world outside of our heads.

My own newest practice has been to read poetry in the morning, instead of opening my laptop to read the latest news. This isn’t a form of avoidance, since the news is everywhere and seeps in eventually no matter what (and anyway, ignorance is no antidote). It’s because poetry brings news of a different kind. The tenor of the day is shifted by the beauty of words crafted in such a way that we can’t even quite understand how they evoke that “ahh!” of awakening, or memory. And so because we’re in the winter months now, and because winter also carries its metaphors for all the ways we bank our fires and nurture our seeds for the warmer times, here’s a poem to feed your spirit. May we all find the practices that tilt us toward connection, resilience and courage.

“Winter’s Harvest”
by Jane Elsdon

When winter comes
weighing us down
with weariness and loss
natural wisdom whispers
Lower yourself
into the lap of silence
where the shaman’s song is born.
Allow her to cradle you
close to her heart
as soil cradles seeds
and roots softly hum.
You are thought
making its way into form.
You are fertility’s gift
of rejuvenation,
the bearer of new life.
In the womb of silence
you are winter’s harvest.

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