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Winter, Desolation, and Faith

By Richard Moss

The depths of winter are the bleakest of times, gray and fallow, the trees emptied of life, the wildlife desperate and sullen, the earth a crystalline tomb. The winter mires us and spreads its desolation before us. It sinks its fingers into our flesh, immobilizing us as it does the world. The winter is a metaphor for death, but it is also death itself. It captures us like beasts and encircles us.

But within the wretchedness there is a thread. Winter bears a bitter irony — that with its pitiless encroachment new meaning can come. But like nature we must turn inward. In winter we self-examine and prune our excesses. As nature labors inwardly after the leaves have fallen, so must we.

In winter we glimpse the approaching spring: even as we drift pointlessly, lost in our labyrinths, gazing at mirrors, combing the ruins of our lives and the evolving expanse of our illusions. In that emptiness, we may reach for some tenuous slip of life.

We may recover our souls in winter even as we are grounded in its bleak soil, our roots frayed and broken, the knowledge of death upon us, its odor wafting about us. Our faces are withered, our bones bowed and arthritic, our souls failing; we commune with the elders who know the prophecies. But in the midst of winter and its letter of death, we glean the signs of faltering life. We do not hide from mortality and its numbing portent; we embrace it, and so unshackle ourselves.

The lakes and rivers will thaw, new leaves will form, flowers will turn over in the copper earth, gardens will decorate the land as ornaments, the insects and forest life will multiply, the birds will repopulate the heavens, the cobalt seas will warm and seethe, the rains will return, the farmers will plow the mahogany fields, and a new harvest will come.

Turn inward in winter, as nature does, and repair yourself. Recall the past and discern its wisdom. As the winter consumes us, so too does it scatter the seeds of the next generation: the earth will ply its orbit and hold its tilt, the sun will cast its broad filigree of light, and the eternal cadences will release us and bestow God’s benediction. Through the specter of death we may live again. Within the winter of the mind we glimpse the spring of the mind. New life will come.

The spring will sanctify us with its budding fruit. It will ripen in summer. In fall, we shall have our bounty. And then shall come the winter as the earth dies again and prepares for the coming seasons of grace. We rediscover the Almighty in the cycles he has created; he renews us, and we are reborn.

Dr. Richard Moss is a board-certified head and neck cancer surgeon, and was a candidate for Congress in 2016 and 2018. He has been in practice in Jasper and Washington, Indiana, for over 20 years. He has written A Surgeon’s Odyssey and Matilda’s Triumph, available on amazon.com. Find more of his essays at richardmossmd.com. Visit Richard Moss, M.D., on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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