All our winters

How did these woods I’m walking survive such a winter?
How can they ever hope to be resurrected
from six months in the stranglehold of ice and snow,
roots frozen solid in frost-bound earth,
brittle branches bare of bud and bird?

And how will we survive
the terrible winters of our souls?
For don’t we know such raging, howling winters –
winters that lay us bare with grief and despair,
snatching our breath and our bearings,
leaving us blinded, ragged?
And what of the interminable winters
that are nothing but a long, grey, loneliness,
slowly burying us alive
with our bright hope and our golden dreams?
How, I wonder, can we ever survive?

Then I look around at this forest
newly emerging from its winter death,
the ground still sodden, heavy,
and already the moss that for cold, covered months has clung
in desperation to roots and trunks
is vibrant velvet,
and though many trees still stand asleep, bleakly waiting,
others are ever wakeful, ever green.

So maybe we too will emerge –
not unharmed, not untouched, but still standing.
Perhaps buried parts of us that have clung to life
will be unveiled vibrant.
Perhaps we will come to recognize
a hidden resilience that has been growing in us all along.
It could even be that the winter has killed what needed to die,
offered rest to what could not go on,
and now new growth can finally rise unfettered.
It could be.

I do know that as I leave the quiet forest,
still wondering if we will make it –
you, me, the trees, the unseen creatures –
I am greeted by the ocean, endless and beautiful,
and I remember it has faithfully caressed these changing shores
since the world began,
not subject to the ceaseless seasons and
deaths and resurrections that we all undergo.
And somehow this thought, in this moment,
in one salty surge of waves and tears,
breaks my heart and mends it.
We live and we die and we hope to survive.
and the ocean endures.

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