An Incarnational Sketchbook: Body in Winter

Meditation and Art by Mary Reddy

Author’s Note: I often draw what I see as I meditate. The act of putting pencil to paper brings my thoughts into physical form where they endure, take on weight, and invite me to revisit them. Often these quick sketches suggest themes and practices found in Incarnational Spirituality. In this meditative drawing, I envisioned the earth’s crust as a great Boundary and imagined how the practice of Standing, at first local, could stretch to encompass the whole of the planet.


…a simple outline of polar opposites—the hemispheres of the earth experiencing winter and summer…I love the paradox of a wholeness containing opposites: heat and cold, light and dark, growth and rest within a single planetary field. But moving into this drawing, I begin to locate myself in the particular, in the north— in winter.

We are not just observers of Gaia’s seasons. In our embodied selves we turn with the seasons as much as any plant or creature. Here in the northern hemisphere, winter casts her shroud across the surface of the earth. Imagine a fine woven cloth, gauzy and porous, but enveloping. It stretches across one half of a great sphere, thicker toward the north, thinning southward. This shroud is the earth’s wintry crust: a rim, a borderland, an edge, a skin—and in winter, a kind of seal used to join two things together (sealed with a kiss) or to prevent anything from passing between them (a sealed tomb). Above is sealed off from below; within is sealed off from without. Or so it seems. 

Over this seal of cold ground, the trees stand in contemplation. The loud shouts of birds are a faint memory. Bright warm colors have been replaced by subdued tones of sky grey, twig brown, and solemn evergreen. And white—winter whitens us. We breathe our white breath into the air, then seek the red whispers of fire to warm our hearts. If summer is a lush sprawling novel by Thomas Wolfe, winter is the brief, austere poetry of Emily Dickinson who once observed, “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.” 

Winter is a mirror of subtle worlds. Remember—all that is unseen is not therefore absent. I ask my body if it is also quietly busy with an underground enrichment, an earthly steeping of my spring growth. This winter I find myself sleeping later, longing to stay in bed until the sun’s rays begin to peep over the Cascadia range. Yet through the long nights, my dreams have shone with an incandescent light. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote “Perhaps I am a bear, or some hibernating animal underneath, for the instinct to be half asleep all winter is so strong in me.” And so I, in my body, attune to the season and the earth’s turning, wedded to its rhythms as much as any bear.

 Moving out from my own body in winter, from the particular place on the planet where I stand, I begin to imagine the whole sphere of earth. It turns on its axis and tracks its orbit around our sun. On the other side of the planet, all is reversed; above ground teems with colorful life and buzzing sounds. The seedling cracks out of its pod, straining to cross the borderland between dark underground and bright sunlight. Earth’s hemispheres hold the paradox of growth within and without, visible and hidden. 

Standing is the core exercise of Incarnational Spirituality and Boundary one of its four Principles. Click on the links provided to learn more. For another blog post on Standing, please read Susan Sherman's A Reflection on Standing with Dogs and Cats, Oh My! Comments or questions about Views from the Lorian Community? Please email