Wednesday, 15 December 2010


As the days grow short the shadows creep in. The blanket of leaves grows dark and lies like a shroud upon the cold body of the earth as she draws back her fluids into herself. Winter sucks the life out of the land with a harsh and oppressive hunger, and all that is soft and warm recoils in the face of her advance. The woodland creatures hibernate, sealing up their dens to salvage and sustain the heat in the heart of themselves. They wrap themselves around it and sleep, little pockets of hot life imbedded in the cold clay. Secret dreamers among the black roots, spirits of fur and claw and snuffling snout, cave dwellers, fire keepers, as silent as grubs they hide from winter’s fierce and probing tongue.
We too are called upon to descend. Into stillness. Into the heat of ourselves. Into feeling. Yet so often we fear descent and struggle to resist it. We fear the death of what we know, the collapse of all that supports us. We fear the shadows that we meet there.
Yet every winter, Nature surrenders painlessly to this descent. She follows the cycle of her own being back down into the heart of herself. Of all the lessons she teaches us this is perhaps the most profound, that descent is not to be avoided but embraced. Entered into voluntarily it is a sweet release and the doorway to transformation. It is the death and dissolution of the caterpillar in the cocoon.

Ian Siddons Heginworth is an environmental arts therapist, founder of the Devon-based Wild Things community programme and author of Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life, Spirit’s Rest Books.

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