Winter is the season of the old. The earth is spent and must rest. Darkness covers the land and people turn inward, toward the darkness of the soul. Things that can be ignored or kept at bay during the summer surface now that there is no sunlight to cover them. Northern people say that winter is a bad tempered being. Restless spirits come down, and children are warned not to go out alone. Rain, snow, and mist muffle sound and compel even the most busy and active to keep silence. Not everything can survive a winter. Birds fly south; some animals hibernate. Many people go to Florida or Arizona or Hawaii in search of sun. But if winter is dormant, cronish and bad tempered in many ways, she is also rich in stories, because winter gives us ample time to think and from that thought, much wisdom arises. So also does resentment, but that is a story I shall save for another time.
A tracker knows that he must be silent if he is to find his prey. In cultures that must track in order to live, even little children are trained to be as silent as air, to walk without sound, to pay attention to all the little signs that tell them who has been here. This is not only true of hunter cultures; political exiles have learned this as well. It was said that when the first Europeans crashed into the North American forests, people could hear them from miles away. Noise is an attribute of dominance.
While silence is a beautiful humility. Silence is the ground of prayer. When I keep silence, I cannot impose my views. When I keep silence, I am ready to meet and to know the Other as Other. The Other both humbles me and like the bear in the forest, helps me be strong.
Advent is a tracking season. People are on the move. There are voices in the wilderness. Pause and listen to them. They just might surprise you.