Photo by SuperHerftigGeneral,

December… the time of fresh starts.

I’ve just finished Vivian Swift’s wonderful book, “When Wanderers Cease to Roam – A Traveler’s Journal of Staying Put“. It is unique in its celebration of both nomadism and rootedness, and delightfully detailed and grounded in its expressions of settledness. It’s hand written and illustrated, and just a breath of fresh air. And I’ve got the author to thank for today’s post.

Swift walks us through the months of the year, a full year’s reflections on settledness that dance between the then and the now. This is her reflection on December;

“Now is the time of fresh starts. This is the season that makes everything new. There is a longstanding rumor that spring is the time of renewal, but that’s only if you ignore the depressing clutter and din of the season. All that flowering and budding and birthing – the messy youthfulness of Spring actually verges on SQUALOR. Spring is too busy, to full of itself, too much like a 20-year-old to be the best time for reflection, re-grouping, and starting fresh. For that you need December. You need to have lived through the mindless biological imperatives of your life (to bud, and flower, and show off) before you can see that a landscape of new fallen snow is THE REAL YOU. December has the clarity, the simplicity, and the silence you need for the best FRESH START of your life” (p. 183, 2008).

With December comes a stripping away, a rawness, a transparency that lays bare the world around us. Can we, do we, mirror this? Can we take up the silence it offers and enter it bravely? Silence and reflection can be terrifyingly stark, and yet so often they are where the quiet opportunities for change begin.

If we have a story in which change was the norm, consciously choosing change might elicit in us anything from elation (change is my home!) to dread (why would I choose change!?) As Third Culture Kids, we may dance a delicate dance with change. On the one hand, we identify our need for the presence of new-ness in our lives – we are drawn to beginnings, to projects, to new challenges. They bring us joy and we feel most in our flow when addressing them.

On the other hand, we may have a heightened awareness of the potential destructiveness of change – to strip away not only that which we desire to shed, but everything else with it. Change can threaten our relationships and our careers. Change may have been experienced as a thing imposed onto us by outside forces. Change is not something for which we now volunteer. Instead Change irresistably finds us. We are drawn to it – either like a moth to a flame, or as a life-giving force that offers relief in our mundane moments.

How can we tame this force? How can we reach the point at which we become masters of Change? I think Swift offers the answer more eloquently than I can – we pause. We pause on the verge of new-ness and breathe in the stillness. We open ourselves to the stark landscape in which we find ourselves (perhaps geographically, perhaps emotionally) and we pause. And breathe, our breath misting and spiraling before our eyes.

In the same way that pausing in the cold makes visible our invisible breath, pausing in our stark landscapes can make visible our invisible needs and desires. Just pausing. And noticing. And breathing.

What is your December laying bare? And what fresh starts are calling you? What ‘real you’ is crying out for recognition?

If you would like accompanyment in either your stark places, or your new beginnings, get in touch here. I’d love to hear your story.


  1. Dan says:

    Hmmmm . . . a different perspective, indeed. Doesn’t quite work for this old crank, as Spring reigns supreme amongst the seasons for me. The restoration of life, the budding, the blooming, the newness, the birdsong, the return of decent weather . . . and all that sort of splendid resurrection. Different strokes for different folks; Swift’s metaphor doesn’t quite work for me, creative and evocative though it may be. December more like is a time of depression and death and snow that soon becomes dirty. Or am I in some kind of a mood this morning? 🙂

    • Dr. Rachel Cason says:

      That’s fair enough, Dan 🙂 Personally I think every season carries an opportunity for restoration and renewal… we shouldn’t have to wait! But perhaps it manifests in different ways for each? December is a hard time for many people… hopefully yours will include some sense of hope and warmth despite the dirty snow! 😉

      • Dan says:

        Ho-ho-ho, Dr. Rachel!

        When I wrote my message earlier today, it was from the perspective of a guy with a broken tooth in his head. Now, half a day later, I have a temporary crown in there. So it was partly the tooth talking. I still stand by my personal opinion to some degree, but I certainly agree with you that a step in a better direction can come at any time of the year.

        Merry Christmas!

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