“Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.”
— Katherine May
I have been through a very painful winter. Have you too?
Today, turning the calendar page today to March 1 felt liberating.
Then a walk in balmy, windy, air,
listening to birds, looking for crocuses and pansies, admiring the persistence of daffodils —
all these things provided more tonic.
My spirit wants to attach to these signs of hope and move right to spring.
But there are twenty days of winter remaining, and, if winter is a crucible,
as Katherine May says above, then now is the time to try to understand
the nature of the trial I (and you too?) have been through.
A crucible is a test.
Literally, it is a container for melting metal,
often precious metals.
When in the midst of the crucible, the searing pain seems eternal. It seems like death.
That’s how it was almost all of 2020.
The whole year felt like winter. Like a crucible.
First, my daughter fell seriously ill without a clear diagnosis.
Then, weeks later, a pandemic threatened to bring death and destruction to millions.
And loneliness and poverty to many more.
A pandemic made all other forms of suffering worse, and more isolating,
even when it did not infect us directly, it changed our plans and made it riskier to travel back and forth
between Pittsburgh and Harrisonburg.
I became caregiver, medical sleuth, mama and grandma,
letting go of travel plans, volunteer work, writing.
Eventually, I too became ill.
Not able to think straight or sleep well, I lost energy, weight, and hair,
but never lost hope.
Just at the time when that hope was hardest to hang on to,
a spark of new life appeared.
The daughter who had been hiding, even from friends and family,
began to use the computer again to research.
She found a whole world of people suffering from a host of symptoms with an alphabet soup of names:
MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities), EI (Environmental Illness), ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome),
CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome), MCAS (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome) . . .
Memoirists and documentarians TED speakers told their stories.
This award-winning documentary describes Jennifer Brea’s journey with many of the above.
The stories of other courageous people led our daughter to tell her own story on Facebook.
She described the winter in her soul, and her friends responded with empathy and encouragement.
She learned of at least six other people who had similarly mysterious and treatment-resistant illnesses.
Instead of falling through the cracks and looking up through those cracks at the world carrying on around her,
Kate began to find a community of healers and those who are healing.
She began to believe she too could heal.
Slowly, steadily, she has gained strength every day since Christmas.
Winter has done its work but has not had the last word.
Spring has broken through in her spirit.
Stories have given her hope.
Food is her medicine, and I am her witness.
The fact that I am finally re-appearing here after my last blog post in August says
that I too am healing.
I too am reaching out to the community that has faithfully engaged with my stories,
and I am eager to hear yours!
Has winter been a crucible for you? How? What meaning have you found in the winter in your soul? I’d love to read your thoughts below.
While you think about your answer, here are wise words from Anton Chekhov:
“The snow has not yet left the earth, but spring is already asking to enter your heart. If you have ever recovered from a serious illness, you will be familiar with the blessed state when you are in a delicious state of anticipation, and are liable to smile without any obvious reason. Evidently that is what nature is experiencing just now. The ground is cold, mud and snow squelches under foot, but how cheerful, gentle and inviting everything is! The air is so clear and transparent that if you were to climb to the top of the pigeon loft or the bell tower, you feel you might actually see the whole universe from end to end. The sun is shining brightly, and its playful, beaming rays are bathing in the puddles along with the sparrows. The river is swelling and darkening; it has already woken up and very soon will begin to roar. The trees are bare, but they are already living and breathing.”