Winter as Play and Delight

20181109_110011In January, over twenty women gathered for a Word and World weekend of rest and writing using winter as their guide and teacher. This is the last reflection offered which also gives some writing prompts. May it be company in these longer winter days.

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

As we begin this final morning together, I am holding all that we have carried and shared with one another. I am so grateful.

These words come to mind from Arundhati Roy who is an Indian author and activist.

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

To confront empire with our art, our joy, our ability to tell our own stories. We have been telling our own stories with tender brilliance.

And we have made space for quiet days. Roy says “on a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” In this space, in this circle, in the quiet, I hear her breathing. And that is deep joy. The kind of joy that only comes when we have sat in the darkness and when we have suffered the harshness. It is then that we feel a deep sense of joy and we begin to see the delight in the small things.

Winter is my favorite season. Give me harsh, barren winter any day over hot, humid summer. I love darkness. I love coziness. I even love the harshness. And I also love the delight and play that comes. And the striking beauty…

When snow surprises you in the morning with its blanket,
When squirrels’ nests are exposes on the bare silhouetted branches,
When the cardinal appears in his stunning red,
When sleds come out
And carrots are needed
And snow tunnels are formed.
When board games emerge
And fires are lit
And community gathers.

Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, said

“It is not always easy to be joyful, to keep in mind the duty of delight.”

Delight as duty, as discipline, as sacred work. As part of what keeps our humanity intact.

I am mindful of how easy it is in my circumstances as a mother to see delight.

Cedar is our winter baby. He steps lightly, brings us all to laughter, and loves when people are gathered.

This year, Isaac who is five, almost in tears said to be on Christmas even “We have to wait to celebrate Christmas because there isn’t any snow yet.” His joy of the season was so wrapped up with the weather that he was willing to delay the joy of Christmas til it was snowing.

But kids don’t have the patent on play. It is also grown up’s holy work.

Last May, I had the unbelievable gift of officiating Hannah and her partner’s wedding. They are two of the best adults I know who still remember how to play.

So in their wedding, I thought of these words from The Silver Chair. I actually thought of the Narnia book as we prepared for this retreat which has such vivid images of winter in it’s harshness and it’s coziness.

But this is from The Silver Chair when Puddleglum and the two children have been imprisoned underground. They are being tortured into believing that the world of Narnia is not read. And Puddleglum is the one who begins to break the spell. Puddleglum is a froglike creature who is filled with doubts and anxiety. He is a pessimist and full of fear. But he is also brave and Loyola. Clearly a 6 on the enneagram.

This is what he says…

“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things- the trees and the grass and the sun and the moon and the stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies, making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the playworld. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there is no Aslan. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I ever can, even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

The play world is a great deal more important. I think that the world is indeed of more playful imagining. That we are all in need of play and delight.

So, in our final time of quiet, let’s unleash our own play worlds. Honor the duty of delight. Marvel in awe and wonder.

I was struck by Sarah saying yesterday that we have all been trained to write out of our sadness. I think she is right. So this becomes important and challenging work.

I encourage us to be unusually creative. Let words dance like snowflakes on the page. Write poetry. Write fiction. Write a children’s book. Write a love letter to the child that rests in you. Write a letter from snow that beckons you outdoors.

In Mary Oliver’s book Red Bird, there are a series of poems about the cardinal in winter. She ends by letting the red bird speak.

Red Bird Explains Himself

Yes, I was the brilliance floating over the snow
and I was the song in the summer leaves, but this was
only the first trick
I had hold of among my other mythologies,
for I also knew obedience: bring sticks to the nest,
food to the young, kisses to my bride.

But don’t stop there, stay with me: listen.

If I was the song that entered your heart
then I was the music of your heart, that you wanted and needed,
and thus wilderness bloomed that, with all its
followers: gardeners, lovers, people who weep
for the death of rivers.

And this was my true task, to be the
music of the body. Do you understand? for truly the body needs
a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work,
the soul has need of a body,
and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable
beauty of heaven
where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes,
and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart.

Let your writing be a way of listening. So, go and write the music of your body that you want and need.

One thought on “Winter as Play and Delight

  1. Sister Mary Ann Ankoviak, CSJ

    Tre bien, Lydia…thank you for this and thank you for the weekend and your gracious acceptance of me. To quote Red Bird…the song entered my heart, and became the music
    of my heart that I wanted and needed. and on a more surprising note, even the wilderness bloomed here while I was there…a seemingly dead plant that I had in July taken to Geradine’s gravesite and brought back to dispose of, bloomed a beautiful Gerbera Daisy to greet me when I got back here Sunday. My heartfelt gratitude to you and to all. S. Mary Ann

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