A New Life I Must Call My Own

A New Life I Must Call My Own

As you know, I say unkind things about winter every now and then. But cut me some slack, winter-lovers! I live in Madison, Wisconsin, and I’ve earned my stripes when it comes to ice and snow and zero temps!

Truth be told, there are certain features of this season that I, too, love. For example, on the introverted/extroverted scale, I’m right in the middle. Winter is good for my introverted side.

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, I find myself going inward in ways that nourish my soul. It’s a spiritual version of hibernation, I suppose.

That’s why I love this poem by David Whyte. It takes me on an inner journey, touching on things I need to remember and truths I need to embrace.

At the moment, this line speaks to me: “what disturbs and then nourishes has everything we need.” If you’re in a mood to sit by this virtual fire for a while in solitude and silence, maybe this poem has a gift for you.

The Winter of Listening
by David Whyte

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,

what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.

All those years
forgetting
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
forgetting
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
difficulty
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
otherness.

Silence and winter
has led me to that
otherness.

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

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Contributor

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. His book On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old will be published in June.

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