The Gift of Winter in Italy.

A confession right up front: for most of my life I’ve despised winter (even winter in Italy) and looked on it as something to just get through. I adore warm weather and living in shorts and flips flops. Sure, I know how to dress warmly and keep the colder elements at bay, but I’ve done it with a certain amount of resentment and an attitude of “less than.” This is my fifth winter in Italy and, thankfully, this normally challenging season is opening my eyes to the beauty that I’ve refused to see for most of my life.

The beauty of being stripped naked.

Why haven’t I seen this before? Why have I not appreciated the underlying structure of trees simply because I’ve been fixated on full-foliage and greenery as the happiest of states? Why am I just now seeing and embracing the potential that lies in wait in the midst of winter?

Andrew Wyeth, probably my favorite artist of all time, was adept at embodying the barren beauty of winter in his paintings. Consider his words:

“I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape–the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ”
Andrew Wyeth

Chasing non-stop warmth and happiness is a futile and energy-sucking endeavor.

This is my belief. Maybe I’m wrong, but this seems to be what life is teaching me. I’m grateful that the dramatic change of scenery and lifestyle that comes with moving to Italy has opened my eyes.

As I write this, I sit in the Umbria home of a dear friend. I’m housesitting for a few days, and I’m smack dab in the middle of profound silence––so much in fact that you might say the silence is deafening. Neurotic thinking is more readily exposed. An unspoken voice tells me to stop and to be present. Suddenly my eyes are seeing things differently.

A walk down a tree-lined drive.

Yesterday, I needed to move my limbs and get my blood pumping. So, I donned my jacket and my baseball cap and headed out and down my friend’s long, winding drive, lined with linden trees and cypresses. The linden trees (in the photo above) spoke to me as I passed, reminding me, that despite appearances, they are still full of life and potential. I needed to hear that. I needed to be reminded of the hope and potential of all seasons of nature and the seasons of my life. I’m reminded that living is about accepting and embracing the changes, the ups and downs. And, I’m heartened to remember that even though things may, at times, seem devoid of visible life or potential, I can rest in “what is,” whatever that is. And I remember if one thing is certain, it’s change.

Winter in Italy also makes me aware of my tendency to fill up my wakeful moments with doing and thinking. Consider winter as a metaphor for allowing things to just sit, rest, and recharge themselves. I hope I can refrain from running from the “winter moments” of my life year round. It’s okay to sit, to wait, and not fill the silence because I’m uncomfortable. Yes, life is still at work in spite of inaction and silence. I believe such times can be the magical moments when we get out of driver’s seat and allow other things to show up without our need to control.

So, thank you to this winter in Italy for waking me up to something to which I’ve been blind in the past. Sure, this can happen anywhere, and Italy doesn’t have the monopoly on revealing this kind of beauty. But, for me, I’m grateful that this has been a gift given to me by living here.

In closing, I share with you one of my favorite quotes:

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.”

– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

By |2019-01-19T21:17:27+02:00January 31st, 2018|Living in Italy, Personal musings|17 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!

17 Comments

  1. Mary February 3, 2018 at 3:41 am - Reply

    Oh these pearls of wisdom! Thank you my friend.

    • Jed February 3, 2018 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      So nice to hear from you, Mary! Glad you like the post. Hope you are doing well! Jed

  2. Kevin February 1, 2018 at 8:04 am - Reply

    Poetic and so beautifully put. The moments you share, your words, your insight, your photography all powerful in their delivery! Vivid moments to savor.

    • Jed February 1, 2018 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      Grazie mille, my friend. The encouragement puts wind in my sails.

  3. bettyalbertchronicles.com February 1, 2018 at 2:44 am - Reply

    Jed, your photography seems to make every season lovely. Our climate change in California is noticeable with only light rains, no snow and 70 plus degrees today.

    • Jed February 1, 2018 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Betty. As my mother (also my high school art teacher) taught me, keep looking at things with fresh eyes, and be sure to change your perspective. Wise words!

  4. Hollie January 31, 2018 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Beautiful Jed. I’ve always loved the change of seasons but being born in Los Angeles we only see one season it seems – summer 🙂 Luckily, I was fortunate enough to live in the northeast for several years where there were four distinct seasons. I’m hoping to move to Italy in the future and it will be nice to experience the changing seasons again and the beautiful scenery. Hollie

    • Jed January 31, 2018 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Hollie. I lived in Tampa for a few years and loved the weather, but missed the change of seasons. I thought, at the time I wanted summer or spring all year. Today, I still want my escapes to feel the sun on my skin that help break up the winter, but I no longer turn my nose up at it like I’ve done too many times with other things that have much to teach me in life! Jed

      • Hollie January 31, 2018 at 8:43 pm - Reply

        Now the humidity is another thing. I wouldn’t survive in FL 🙂

        Yes, it’s amazing how much life continues to teach us things. Hollie

  5. Tom January 31, 2018 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Nice Jed – thanks

    • Jed January 31, 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      So appreciated, Tom!

  6. mark wholey January 31, 2018 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    I too live in an area where woods are in abundance and in winter they strip the leaves and allow me to see what is hidden. When walking in the woods there is distance and discoveries. I love winter for that and the fact of what follows leads to flip flops and barely any clothing over many beautiful limbs.

    • Jed January 31, 2018 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Mark! I always appreciate hearing from you!

  7. Nancy January 31, 2018 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Beautiful Jed. What a great driveway. I’ve always loved the striped bareness of winter…I enjoyed your insights on this time of year. I don’t like being cold but love the way it looks.

    • Jed January 31, 2018 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Nancy! I’m learning to appreciate the cold too, though my body functions much better in warmth!

  8. Rita January 31, 2018 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    “Consider winter as a metaphor for allowing things to just sit, rest, and recharge themselves.” Thank you for this insightful reflection on the beauty (and necessity) of winter in our life. I have always loved the bare trees of winter with their fragile limbs stretched toward the sky waiting in stark silence. I have only visited Italy in summer but would love to experience un inverno italiano. Grazie.

    • Jed January 31, 2018 at 4:27 pm - Reply

      Grazie, Rita! I’d hoped to make it down to Abruzzo to experience winter in the mountains. I also keep hoping for a cold snap and snow and Venice. That will be a photographer’s dream, to see the city blanketed in white. Jed

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