Winter Retreat

My five week retreat in the Western Cape has come to an end. I have not known true winter for a long time. In Durban, winters are mild and tropical and the changing of seasons goes by almost unnoticed. I went with plans and ideas of editing my manuscript that flew out the window like frozen pages into the icy air. An unexpected and noise intolerant housemate resulted in me having to either keep the girls quiet or leave the house.

I have never felt quite so miserable as on the rainy days, trapped in bed, without the possibility of walking anywhere. The leafless branches outside my window mimicking the empty pages of my journal, stark and bare. And there I began to tread lightly into the winter garden of my soul, tip toeing around the uncomfortable silence, searching for a hint of intuition which seemed to have left me along with the warmer Durban weather back home. It was there that I reluctantly spent much time, pruning away fears and shedding layers of ideas and expectations, between hushed whispers.

And when the winter sun came out again, I closed my empty journal and began to walk. I walked around the village many times over, like a labyrinth of lanes lined with bare trees and walled by mountains. Searching for insight or creativity. Over time, I abandoned my hope of writing and began to notice the opportunities the barrenness offered. It was then I discovered the comforts of winter, scarves and woollen hats, gluhwein, chai tea, and the smell of wood fires. I settled into country life, baking bread, making jam, and eating eggs collected from the hens. I found pleasure in the ritual of watching birds in the garden each morning before walking. And as I walked I learned the ins and outs of the village, exploring all avenues and meeting new friends which seemed a good enough reason to be out of the house.

Winter is not over, although it is far milder now that I am back home in Durban. I am pleased to be in my own space, and look forward to writing again, or at least nurturing the seeds below the earth, getting ready for a new season.

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3 Responses to “Winter Retreat”

  1. Kadira Says:

    Hey Leila, I love this line from your post, ” And there I began to tread lightly into the winter garden of my soul, tip toeing around the uncomfortable silence, searching for a hint of intuition which seemed to have left me….” It is so eloquent -If you can write a line like that I believe your creativity is alive and well. Keep Writing!!!

  2. leilasummers Says:

    Thanks Kadira!! Your encouragement is gratefully appreciated!

  3. Sharon Lippincott Says:

    Leila, I feel the desolation of that empty journal. Its such a fitting metaphor for winter. What fun that the miracle of the Internet lets me sit in sweltering summer reading about your winter nearly half a world away. May those pages fill, and your frozen pages thaw.

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