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War and Peace 

The insights to be found in the quietness of winter

  • Caleb Walsh illustration

The world can feel like a pretty chaotic and turbulent place, sort of like my mind, which storms over loops of endless questions, scenarios and thoughts that rage like rivers running wild. At times, those questions move outward, curiosity directed at the external but often I aim more at myself, an internal war constantly being waged within.

But there are some moments...

click to enlarge inga_laurent.jpg

In the stillness of winter, amidst the chill of November and December, especially right after a heavy snowfall blankets the world in a rather piercing silence, peace seems most possible to me. The snow and the season combine and can feel like a mother pleading with resistant children for a momentary détente, a cessation to all the agitated roving. She expertly puts us at ease, telling us to go rest inside and maneuvers us into bed, tucking us in tight before we even realize how quickly we fell in line and that she knew just what we needed.

Perhaps it's the collective energy that emanates from the intentionality of families — those of birth and blood or those chosen. In gathering together with thanks for one another, valuing time and spending it joined to honor old and creating new traditions.

Perhaps it's in the act of so much giving. In deeply considering what would make someone important to us happy, bringing a smile to their face. For a moment, putting others' needs before our own and extending ourselves to and through each other.

Perhaps it's in the cycle of death and rebirth. In the hope that blooms with the returning light that will overcome darkness — the transformation of our short and chilling days into longer and warmer ones.

Perhaps it's in the promise of a new year. In finally giving ourselves permission to pause in reflection on time gone by, considering all we have failed to do well and how we aspire to do better.

Whatever the reason, in this stillness, I sit and cease, finally taking some respite in the calm. And when I am here, tranquility cannot help but give way to gratitude. It pours from me because it must, as it always does in those moments when I come face to face with grace. While I do work hard, many work harder and still have much less. While I do have plenty, others have more but couldn't feel emptier. This awareness requests only one responsibility of me — that I share what has been given. When I concede this, I touch peace. Oh that I could stay in this place of thankfulness and giving, transformation and reflection. I want to remain here, fixed in this knowledge, suspended in these moments, letting the beauty of this time, this place, this life, this experience, and this season wash so completely over me that I carry it forward forever, but that simply isn't my reality, though I hold out hope that one day it well may be.

So if I could have one wish, this would be it: May peace be with you and also with you. When we need it, may it find us. May it settle in our longing and troubled hearts. May it envelope us in its warmth. And may it light us up from the inside-out so completely that we cannot help but extend it to another. ♦

Inga N. Laurent is an associate professor and director of the externship program at Gonzaga University's School of Law. She returned to Spokane this fall after spending nine months researching restorative justice in Jamaica as a Fulbright scholar.

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