These Magnificent Hearts

Our lives are at once ordinary and mythical. We live and die, age beautifully or full of wrinkles...At the same instant we have these magnificent hearts that pump through all sorrow and all winters we are alive on earth.
— Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Winter slows down time. It makes simple things like walking to the garage for a red pepper from the fridge out there not quite so simple.  First I have to take off the hoodie I'm wearing to stay warm while I cook so I can fit more easily into my big Chicago coat. I used to have to change shoes as well, but with my new low boots TJ gave me for Christmas, I can transition easily from house to garage and back in the same shoes. That saves a minute. Nevertheless, the effort of retrieval in the recent below-freezing temperatures makes me carefully consider my steps. I try to combine trips of all I might need from the garage on any given winter's day. I also have to suit up to take the scraps to the chickens and collect eggs. 

I wonder how the chickens stand it. They keep laying eggs, too! Maybe it's their way to work to keep warm. 

The temperatures chill me, shock me, and make me slow down, but to have a heart that warms in spite of the gesture from nature is a thing of hope. Emily Dickinson called hope "the thing with feathers," and when the sun shines and I go upstairs and sit at my writing desk and look down on the lake covered in ice, I fly above the winter. I am warm and cozy with the middle-of-the-day sun flooding my room. All of a sudden, I see a palm frond release and glide gently to the ground from one of the palm trees in the back yard. Winter must be shocking it into letting go as well. 

I have no choice but to surrender to this weather that is not my preference. It makes me stronger because I have to endure something that feels against my nature. I was born in summer and summer was born in me. To not get to have something we want, even something as silly as hot weather, is an exercise in surrender.

So January brings an opportunity to "renounce anew all claim to my own life and desires" as the beautiful "Liturgy for First Waking" from Every Moment Holy proclaims. January is a chance to appreciate that my heart will pump through all the winters I get to be alive, just as my heart pumps through sickness and sadness and then things make a turn for the better. I know winter will not win. January 4th has its reasons of being, to make me remember things like endurance, patience, slowing down, and not getting my way. But let's not forget that today also means we are halfway to July 4th.