Winter in Ohio. A wash of dull green, steel gray, lifeless browns and whites. The sky hangs close and I struggle to remember the version of myself who ran before work and grabbed drinks at sunset. The sun isn’t that big of a deal, I think, until it comes back for a few hours here or there and I remember. I look up with closed eyes and warming cheeks, gratefully accepting the clear sky for a moment. It’s always gone before I’ve had enough.
January is a slow, difficult month, and I’d do without all 31 days of it if I could. But I’m beginning to think it’s in the bleakness that we reach harder for inspiration. Winter, the contemplative hibernation, has things to give us. Strange, small, unexpected blessings. In such a gray backdrop, making it through half a dozen green lights in a row feels like a sign. Food tastes better when I have dark evenings to chop, sizzle and bake things just the way I’d like. My room becomes a sanctuary, a chapel of white roses and hardwood floors and soft pink sheets that reflect my own warmth back to me.
In January, I look carefully for words of inspiration like I’d search for sea glass or wildflowers in the summer. Nourishing, funny, moving words to line my pockets and arrange into bouquets. Winter has things to tell me and I listen carefully. A half-formed sticky note takes root on my computer, part podcast, part lightning bolt thought, part eavesdropped inspiration:
be relentless. don’t stop until you’re proud.
“The universe has magic to give you. It just wants to test you and make sure you’re going to go through with it.”
“Embrace the life that is trying to work its way into your consciousness.”
“Shift your mindset from what you have to lose to what you have to offer.”
What does it look like to get more out of life than you ever thought you could?
“Go for a walk and something will happen.”
That last one is Cheryl Strayed. Writer, wanderer, and finisher of the Pacific Crest Trail. She’s gone for some seriously long walks. And on a short one I took this weekend, her words came through for me once again.
Winter came forcefully back into Columbus after a brief warm spell, blowing a snowstorm into the city and making driving dangerous. So in the falling snow, Cheryl’s words in mind, I set out to walk to yoga. I was barely out the door when a close friend called from the airport with time to kill. I brightened at the sound of her voice, light and warm and comforting. I’d missed her more than I even realized. We caught up until I reached the studio, where a locked door and a ‘We’ve Moved’ sign almost derailed my plan but for a girl in the parking lot with my same problem.
Without a second thought, I’d hopped into her car, hustled in to class on time, and made a new friend of my rescue driver. The class was slow, soulful and followed up with a compassionate conversation about bringing yoga to communities who need it most. All because I left the house and left a mile of tidy footprints behind me in the snow. Go for a walk and something will happen.
None of it was a big deal, but I held onto that afternoon just the same. It turned out better than I planned for, and sometimes that’s all we can ask. Every day the light stays with us a little longer, the sunset suspending over the horizon for a few more breaths. And in a few months, the sea glass and wildflowers, the thousands of tiny moments and words that kept me going, will catch the light on the windowsill.