Winter is finally here → Regeneration

A meditation.

Our winter in Wisconsin has so far been unusual. Despite snowfalls for Halloween and Thanksgiving, we have been pretty warm and dry in December and January. So, when we had our first proper snow this weekend, I finally thought: “Ok, winter is here.”

And when winter comes, I think of fellow Madisonian Rebecca Ryan’s book Regeneration: A Manifesto for America’s Next Leaders.

I wrote this book because I believe that America is going through a period of decline that will last through about 2020. I call this period “winter.” And if you’ve ever experienced winter, you know that things seem to die. But they don’t; they hibernate. Squirrels, birds, trees, Packers fans—they all take a nice long rest during winter.

Winter’s not forever. Spring will come again. And between now and then lies a magical period—a period of regeneration during which we’ll face decisions about what kind of country we are, and what we want to leave for our children, and theirs.

The book is filled with fascinating predictions about the future, reflections on American history, policy recommendations, and provocations. She even has a TEDx talk that summarizes the high points. As I paged through the book again this year, though, there was one phrase I kept turning over in my mind:

Simply start where you are, and go where your energy is.

And it hit me: this simple sentence helped me understand my own relationship to winter (perhaps because of winter’s late start).

For me, winter has long been a season of discontent. I have usually felt restless and frustrated, wishing it were already spring. Rather than accept winter as part of the cycle, I would try and place my energy ahead of where I am, where nature is.

This year, I intend to choose a different approach. This year, I intend to practice treating winter as the “out-breath,” accepting the season, starting where I am, and going where my energy takes me. So that, when spring arrives, I can take the “in-breath.”