I’ve lived most of my life in New England—which means an annual spiritual crisis.
"So every fall, a spiritual crisis: is today the day to put the plastic up?"
Most of the apartments I’ve lived in have had drafty windows. In winter, I cover them with big sheets of clear plastic that seal out the cold air. But once I put them up, which is kind of a production, I can’t open the windows until I take them down. So every fall, a spiritual crisis: is today the day to put the plastic up? If it is, I’m giving up on fresh breezes until spring. Can I accept that it’s just going to be cold now, for months? Ugh.
The cold, short days come, regardless of my feelings. My only choice is when I surrender and accept it.
In the winter that arrives no matter what I do, living things slow and withdraw. Some enter a kind of enchanted sleep. Though next year’s buds are already on the tree, they’re protected from the cold by thick scales, waiting for spring before they erupt. Nature rests.
The culture around us sets accomplishment above rest. I often return to Wayne Muller’s book Sabbath, which begins: “In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between work and rest.” It’s hard to surrender to a winter rhythm that includes dormancy.
And what would it look like to not just accept and survive our times of rest, but to delight in them?
"Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heshel writes that Sabbath is 'a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give...'"
In the Jewish practice in which I was raised, Sabbath is a day set aside each week to cease from work—whether that work is complete or not—and make space for renewal and delight. Judaism gets specific about what counts as work to abstain from, as well as what practices to seek out to add to our joy: shared meals, singing, time to read and learn. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heshel writes that Sabbath is “a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord.”
And in seminary, it blew my Jewish mind when my professor Rev. Brita Gill-Austern suggested that one could have Sabbath at any time you intentionally set apart!
What would happen if you set apart a regular Sabbath time? If you decided what to let go of during that period—specific apps on your phone? planning?—and what to engage in—time in nature? thoughtful reading? reaching out to loved ones? I recommend adopting a ritual to remind yourself that you’re entering—and then exiting—a special time. Maybe lighting a candle, taking three long breaths, or singing a song. Notice how it feels to practice Sabbath time, what insights come, how it shapes your week.
May you savor your winters and your Sabbaths. May they renew you and reconnect you to what’s most important. So may it be.