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January Renewal

I love early January weather in Northern Westchester, NY, where I live. Though on this morning there is a scattering of snow, a minimum cover that is already beginning to melt, we have been short on snow filled vistas so far this winter. But when they do arrive in January, inches and inches of the stuff in piles and snow drifts, the white expanses magnify the strong sun on these leafless days to create, for a few sun-filled hours, a boundless feeling of light.

In January, snow is fresh and bright and winter weather still feels novel. In contrast, it’s the final days February, all of March and the beginning of April, during late winter and early spring, with gray skies dominant and lingering cold, as the chill winds hiss, whistle and groan and spring tarries, that the weather feels much harder to bear. The lengthening sunlight in late winter and early spring makes the body yearn for warm weather and feel more disturbed by its absence in a way that does not occur on the shorter days in January. It’s a subliminal feeling, a part of nature’s programming, that seems a bit paradoxical. When there are more hours of light, it feels much harder on both the body and the spirit physically to withstand the lingering cold that refuses to depart even as the temperature is slowly drifting higher.

Beginning of January, and you still feel like your body is settling in for a long stretch of cold in front of you. The holidays are finally over. And in its cold, sunlit way, with hours of light still scarce, there’s a feeling of tranquility about it. You have squarely arrived into the midst of winter and your mind and body know they are there for the long haul.

It a time to maintain and strengthen strong roots to help survive the stark, beautiful harshness of the expanse of time stretching out before you. It feels intrinsically like a time of renewal, a time to take stock, a time to breathe deeply and to let go of the detritus and bad habits that have accumulated around you and no longer work to your benefit. To shed those self- destructive habits. To cleanse yourself of them in order to restore a core sense of self. And to move back into that revitalized, centered sense of self.

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