My mother used to wait to take the Christmas tree down once my siblings and I were back in school because she thought it would make us sad. In truth, she was the one who mourned the passing of the season. I think she needed the time alone to grieve. As a result, January was her least favorite month of the year. Many people seem to concur. With the bright activity of the holidays behind us, the month can seem long, cold, and stark.
I tend to like January. Living, as I do, in Colorado, the days are brisk but usually clear and filled with the sunshine that is a hallmark of the state. The bare branches stand in contrast to the pale winter sky, marking the landscape with simple beauty. Perhaps this understated loveliness draws me to January’s stillness. It invites reflection and slowing down after a season of intense activity. The cold temperatures drive me to bed a bit earlier each night and I snuggle under the covers with a good book before nodding off. There is a contentment wrapped into this time of year, one that is given eloquent expression in Psalm 131:2 - “It is enough to keep my soul still and quiet like a child in its mother’s arms, as content as a child that has been weaned.”
On the other hand, there is the feeling of “cabin fever” that grips many of us during January. Dreary weather and long nights make children antsy and parents harried. Tempers grow short and boredom takes hold. What’s needed is a jolt of some sort – a stepping out and trying something new.
Several years ago, while living in Southeast Alaska, my husband, Ron, took a beautiful picture of mountains in winter. He and a friend went snowshoeing in order to reach the spot where pristine swirls of untouched snow are tinged with hues of blue and creamy white. He titled the photograph “January Blue.” It hangs on the wall in our living room, a reminder of the effort we sometimes need to make in order to reach a place of beauty and serenity. Cabin fever may be an invitation to stretch our spiritual practices a bit more in order to find the soul’s still point. January is a good month to try.
Plan a family outing this month that takes in the beauty of God’s creation. Visit a natural history museum, an aquarium, or a botanical garden. Talk together about the value of dormancy in the cycle of life.
Download my January Psalm Reflections and place them near your daily calendar or on the family table. Use them for individual reflection or for religious education classroom, parish, or family discussion.