This Winter I’m practicing a certain form of soul alchemy. It involves granting myself permission to be a recluse and seeing that as a necessary thing, instead of taking on the enormous self-reproach that usually accompanies this period of stagnation. Point blank, part of me shuts off this time of year- partly due to the farm season ending, leaving me both physically and mentally exhausted. Instead of beating myself up for it, I’m going to liken it not only to hibernation, but to having bearish powers. Really, try it. Guilt and self- reprimand be gone. To the ancients, the bear symbolized resurrection and is such a profound metaphor for our lives, for restoration and proliferation coming from something that seemed basically deadened.
“In the psyche, the bear can be understood as the ability to regulate one’s life, especially one’s feeling life. Bearish power is the ability to move in cycles, be fully alert, or quiet down into a hibernative sleep that renews one’s energy for the next cycle.”( Women Who Run With the Wolves)
In addition to attributing bearish powers to my hibernative state, I want to quote Gertrud Mueller Nelson’s suggestion that “…stagnation, when it is freely accepted and suffered through, can be in reality an incubation. The incubation period, is unhurried, an unseen growth prefatory to an initiation…an introduction to a new and conscious way of living life fully and passionately.”
So here I am in an archetypal Winter reclusion, likening myself to a bear or an egg in an incubator, with surprising buoyancy and understanding.
In light of this whole seeing power and beauty in what one might normally consider ugly truths and unfortunate tendencies or outcomes, I’ve been reading somewhat incessantly on two things: the art of Kintsukuroi, and the story of Persephone.
I’m spending this month living in Hudson, NY, which is so full of crumbling old buildings that I find so incredibly beautiful. The hidden layers revealed through time and injury are what give these old places such character and charm. They reminded me of Kintsukuroi; a Japanese word referring to repairing broken pottery by filling in the cracks with silver or gold. Instead of trying to hide the damage, kintsukuroi illuminates it- a philosophy similar to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi; embracing the flawed or imperfect. The illuminated proof of the fragility of the object (person) is what makes it so beautiful.
Symbolically parallel to this art, is the story of Persephone- the harvest and vegetation Goddess of the underworld. Persephone was abducted by Pluto, King of Hades (the underworld). Before returning Persephone to her mother, Hades tricked her into eating Pomegranate seeds. Since she’d tasted food from the underworld, she was obliged to Hades (You cannot untaste/unlearn what you’ve tasted/learned) and was bound to spending half the year in the underground (Fall and Winter) and half the year above ground (Spring and Summer). Persephone moves between the worlds in cycles- death and rebirth. She can’t untaste the fruit of the underworld or change her past, so she takes that experience and transmutes it; She becomes Queen of the Underworld- the guide to other lost souls; powerful in her own right. This is a story of the heroine’s journey; turning trial and pain into power and ritual growth.
So cheers to hibernation, incubation, restoration, and knowing Spring will come again.
Snow, white, silver, evergreen, bells, twinkly lights, glitter, velvet, pointsettas, red bows, beeswax candles, cheer, cookies, cinnamon, eggnog, spruce, pine, pink cheeks, shearling, cashmere, scarves, mittens, sleds, wreaths, forests, chestnuts, fire,
Joan Didion essays
Herbal Recipes by Rosemary Gladstar
CHOCOLATE ALMOND CUPCAKES (from Gweneth Paltrow's book: It's All Good
2 cups white spelt OR all-purpose gluten free flour
1 cup high-quality cocoa powder
1 1/2 T baking powder
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 cup vegenaise or vegetable oil
1 cup good-quality maple syrup
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup strong-brewed coffee
1/2 cup milk of choice ( I used almond. Soy or rice would work too.)
1 T pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup roasted almond butter
1/4 cup good quality maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350 and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
Sift the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
Whisk the wet ingredients in another bowl.
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones, being careful not to overbeat (that's how you end up with a tough brownie!)
Whisk together the almond butter and maple syrup for the filling (separately)
Fill each muffin cup 1/2 way with the brownie mixture.
Evenly divide the almond butter- maple syrup mixture among the muffin cups and top with the remaining batter.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.
"She Kissed the Bear on the Nose"- John Bauer, Sweden