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“It sifts from leaden Sieves”

It sifts from leaden Sieves—
It powders all the Wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road—

It makes an Even face
Of Mountain and of Plain—
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again—

It reaches to the Fence—
It wraps it Rail by Rail
Till it is lost in Fleeces—
It deals Celestial Veil

To Stump, and Stack—and Stem—
A Summer’s empty Room—
Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
Recordless, but for them—

It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
As Ankles of a Queen
The stills its Artisans—like Ghosts—
Denying they have been—

Emily Dickinson

Winter is a time of hibernation, of preserving life’s energy.  All of nature draws inside for protection from the harshness of winter.  As the cold moves in, many birds fly south; animals herd together or hibernate in caves and hollows.  Even as plants store energy in their core, there is, within this stillness, the hidden activity of gestation where the essence of life persists in preparation for the renewal in Spring.  Nature appears dormant on the surface, sleeping as darkness comes earlier.  There is beauty in the nakedness of tress and branches, standing as if in loneliness, swaying and sometimes trembling in the wind.  There is also the beauty of the silence, of the tress, the snow and the coldness.  In nature, as in us, winter is a time of closing in and storing, a time for preserving our energies and building our reservoirs.  It is not a time for over-activity, for we need to protect ourselves from the elements.  In winter we must be conscious of our limits and not deplete ourselves.

“To know when to stop is to preserve ourselves from danger.”

Lao Tzu.

Winter energies in us are experienced in our capacity to adapt and preserve ourselves from over-activity and unwanted danger.  Wisdom is knowing our limits and adhering to the flow of life that moves us.  By treasuring our resources and building our reserves, we enhance the potency of future action and provide a firm foundation for our will, thereby preventing ourselves from engaging in unnecessary struggle, from becoming overwhelmed and eventually burned out.

Winter is the season to be more aware of our need for warmth, rest, quietness, stillness and reflection.  In these activities we build our reservoirs.  Sometimes the blessings of winter are hard to fathom given its difficulties and challenges as it confronts us with the experience of going deeper inside.  Withdrawing can be a great source of pleasure as we connect deeper with ourselves, or a source of discomfort and trepidation if we fear the inward journey, a journey which can be fraught with uncertainty.  How do I deal with uncertainty, with not knowing?  How do I deal with risks, fears and challenges?  How do I adapt?  How am I conscious of my will, my capacities for storing and regeneration, and the use of my power.  Finding answers to these questions and meeting these challenges arise out of the energy and movement that winter can stimulate or kindle in us.  Winter is a time for being more aware of the choices and changes that we make and the risks we take, a time to feel the effects of choice and change on the quantity and quality of our energy.

Winter also confronts us with the experience of endings, yet endings are beginnings.  For within the stillness of winter is the seed of spring, the activity of gestation.  In us, this may manifest in our ability to let ideas, dreams and plans germinate, making them ready to  be implemented in the spring as new projects.

Winter Night

My house is poor; those that I love have left me.
My body is sick; I cannot join the feast.
There is not a living soul before my eyes
As I lie alone locked in my cottage room.
My broken lamp burns with a feeble flame;
My tattered curtains are crooked and do not meet.
“Tsek, tsek” on the door-step and window-sill
Again I hear the new snow fall.
As I grow older, gradually I sleep less;
I wake at midnight and sit up straight in bed.
If I had not learned the “art of sitting and forgetting,”
How could I bear this utter loneliness?
Stiff and stark my body cleaves to the earth;
Unimpeded my soul yields to Change.
So has it been for four tedious years,
Through one thousand and three hundred nights!

Po Chu-i  (A.D. 812)

Winter Night

My bed is so empty that I keep on waking up;
As the cold increases, the night-wind begins to blow.
It rustles the curtains, making a noise like the sea.
Oh that those were waves which could carry me back to you!

Chien Wen-Ti


Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodland brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllable recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.

Rising Late and Playing with  A-Ts’ui, Aged Two

All the morning I have lain snugly in bed;
Now at dusk I rise with many yawns.
My warm stove is quick to get ablaze;
At the cold mirror I am slow in doing my hair.
With melted snow I boil fragrant tea;
Seasoned with curds I cook a milk-pudding.
At my sloth and greed there is no one but me to laugh;
My cheerful vigour none but myself knows.
The taste of my wine is mild and works no poison;
The notes of my lute are soft and bring no sadness.
To the Three Joys in the book of Mencius
I have added the fourth of playing with my baby-boy.

Po Chu-i  (A.D. 831)

Parting from the Winter Stove

On the fifth day after the rise of Spring,
Everywhere the season’s gracious attitudes!
The white sun gradually lengthening its course,
The blue-grey clouds hanging as though they would fall;
The last icicle breaking into splinters of jade;
The new stems marshaling red sprouts.
The things I meet are all full of gladness;
It is not only I who love the Spring.
To welcome the flowers I stand in the back garden;
To enjoy the sunlight I sit under the front eaves.
Yet still in my heart there lingers one regret;
Soon I shall part with the flame of my red stove!

Po Chu-i  (A.D. 822)

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