the woman who keeps the winter

"Finally the earth grows softer, and the buds on the trees swell, and the afternoon becomes a wider room to roam in, as the earth moves back from the south and the light grows stronger. The bluebirds come back, and the robins, and the song sparrows, and great robust flocks of blackbirds, and in the fields blackberry hoops put on a soft plum color, a restitution ..." - Mary Oliver

When I read this quote on Myth & Moor, I saw not spring but instead had a vision of a dark and white-stained winter, bare of song, a woman left almost alone in the landscape waiting for the birds to return. I imagine this is how it is for country dwellers, this feeling of the emptying out of their world. I imagine they must catch the eye of the owl and the fox across the silent fields, and share a moment of kinship, being the few left behind, the wintered community, the true dwellers there before crowds of happy summer tourists return.

And it makes me think what a responsibility the wintered woman owns - to keep the cold world, protecting it while all others are sleeping or in sunlit lands. She must clear debris, gather wood, burn fires, nurture whatever will grow. She must witness the clean honest beauty of winter, so that the world goes on being loved - for without love even the trees will suffer, even the winds will. And she must sing up the morning, no matter how cold she is, and count each old familiar star - for magic, for hope.

We have all kinds of winters in our lives. I believe we are entrusted with them. We are not small, soft things who can bear only summer; we are the wood-gatherers and the fire makers and the wise wild singers. Winter is our season of truth.

art by flora mclachlan


  1. lovely, lovely...

    i've always liked the bare beauty of winter. and i've always felt that the earth herself would like very much to be loved for her winter body, as she is for her summer one. and i do think there can be a great sense of kinship between a person watching and walking in the winter world and the other animals out there trying to survive. the hunters seem to hunt with more urgency in winter than they do in summer, when it's warm, and life is abundant all around. and the others, the deer, especially, are different in some indefinable way---the recklessness of breeding season shades into a strange combination of boldness and startlement...i feel very tender about the world and her creatures in winter. and yes, it is indeed our season of truth...we must look deeply into the dark, and at the bright stars in the cold sky, and into ourselves. we must listen hard for the tiny clicking of ice crystals landing on snow, and the cries of the swans sailing the skies, and the sound of warmth in a crackling fire. we must be still, and attentive. we must ask the right questions, and really listen for the answers...

  2. your comments are always so full of thought, i really appreciate them <3

  3. "we are the wood-gatherers and the fire makers and the wise wild singers"

    Just gorgeous. I keep reading this over and over.

  4. "We have all kinds of winters in our lives. I believe we are entrusted with them." Yes...thank you.

  5. Sometimes, in winter in Nebraska, I feel like "a woman left almost alone in the landscape waiting for the birds to return." And it's only January. Sigh. :)

  6. Lovely art and writing. And oh, I do love Mary Oliver!



In the quiet hours, the inbetween moments and the half-light, I sometimes like to write. My books are made from fairytale shadow and old magical songs. They speak about dreams, lost wishes, longing for something beyond the self, and always about love. You can learn about them here.

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