Welcoming the Void

Well, we’ve settled fully into winter, here in the Catskills.  Right this moment, I am blogging from a friend’s guest room.  I came over to (what else?) make a pot of soup, and got caught out by an icy rain that pretty much ruled out the option of driving home tonight.

The transition from late-fall to winter, in my judgment, happened on Monday.  We’d had snow, sure, but it had been the light and fluffy kind, and the sun had been shining, and there wasn’t much ice around, just snow.  And then on Monday, everything was grey.  And wet.  And…bleak.  It suddenly really felt like winter.  Driving home from the bank on Old Route 17, I passed three crows in a triangle – one on either side of the road, and the third on a branch extending out above me.  Crows, in my world, are associated with Dhumavati, who is a crazy-cool Tantric goddess.  She is, among other things, the goddess of the void.  Of nothingness.

Driving past those crows and looking out at all the grey, and the dripping-wet-ice-cold-bleak-and bleary world, reminded me that winter is the time of the void.  The time for going inward.  The time for stillness, and quiet, and letting go of what needs to be let go.

I do not always welcome winter, or its arrival, and I do not always welcome the void when it arrives.  But this year, I am embracing the chance to settle into the void…welcoming it like an old friend.  It’s been a big year, overall, and a big several months in my life, in particular.  I never dreamed, when I finished my memoir early this year, that before the end of the year I would have listed it online for sale, and experienced the wonder of people reading it, and interacting with it, and being impacted by it.  I never dreamed, two weeks ago when I was idly toying with the idea of blogging about Bill Cosby, that I would have something I wanted to say to the world, and work to be heard, and reach over 1200 people with my words.  I never dreamed, a year ago, that I would be getting ready to pack up and move out of the apartment I’ve called home for nearly four years, and move into a six-month intensive community life experiment.

I have risked-in-the-world more this year than any year previous.  I’ve become more embodied – more connected to the whole; I’ve nurtured my connection to the rest of the world and watched it grow.  And it has been, on the whole, a grand experiment.  And it has been a long year, and a lot of hard work, a lot of shedding of old habits of hiding and isolating.

And now the winter is here.  And it’s likely that the pace of my life won’t really slow down much – it might even pick up – but I’m going to make sure I make time for the void.  To let myself meander nostalgically through my memories as I sort through my belongings and pack in preparation for my move.  To gaze at the empty spaces on the walls when I take the artwork down, and feel the empty spaces in me, the places that ache where some things used to be, but are no longer.  To stand in the middle of a snow-covered field and gaze out at the blank expanse, and feel my own sense of spaciousness, the freedom to move; the room for newness to emerge…the excitement of a blank page or a blank canvas.

I am looking forward to being with the nothingness of winter…to mourn the dreams that have passed, and nurture the ones that are growing.  Because the nothingness is what contains all the potential for newness…the ashes of old dreams nurture the seeds of new ones.

Winter always makes me think of grief, and this year I have more reasons than usual to dwell on the topic.  I think there’s something truly beautiful about really giving yourself space to grieve, and grieve fully…whether you are grieving a loved one, a dream, or any other loss…I think something beautiful happens when you let yourself have your grieving process.  Something grows from it.  Something strong-yet-flexible, silver-colored and quiet and wise gathers itself in your soul and manifests something new, something that could only have grown from this particular pain.  It’s the promise of hope, hidden inside the seed of sorrow, just as the entire structure of the oak is hidden within the acorn.  And just like the acorn has to break open for the tree to emerge, so our hearts have to break — we have to fully experience the void — for the hope to reveal its shape.

Sometimes, the void feels like my own deepest abyss, and all that nothingness feels cold and hard and cutting, like an icy wind.  And sometimes, the void feels like a sanctuary…a place of quiet, and rest, and gestation.  In reality, I think the nothingness of the void is like space – like you could stare at an empty spot of sky, seeing nothing, for ten years straight, and never realize that in the space where you couldn’t see anything, millions of galaxies were dancing all along.

As this winter begins, I am embracing this perspective on the void – as the nothingness that contains all the potential for everything there could ever be – and I am smiling at its arrival, ready to listen to the hush of the snowfall, and feel the tiny cracks of the seeds breaking open, deep beneath the soil…ready, even, to let my tears fall, knowing that they are there to water the seeds.