The weather here in Indiana has been strange recently. My mom, whose birthday is in mid-January, prior to 2017 had never experienced a birthday in the mid-50s. Last Saturday one of my kids from church turned 16 – she had never spent her birthday in short sleeves at a park. I saw an acquaintance on Facebook yesterday, celebrating her birthday, enjoying the sunshine and warmer air. Apparently, it’s been a good month for those with January birthdays!
Last Saturday, when it reached the mid-60s, I got the spring bug. After participating in the women’s rally downtown, I came home and rearranged the basement. That wasn’t enough, so I broke down the cardboard in our garage, loaded it in the truck and took it to recycling. All while jamming with my ear buds in, wearing a short sleeve shirt and the windows down in the truck. In my mind, spring had arrived!
Unfortunately, some of my plants thought so too. As I was enjoying the unseasonably warm air, I was also worried about my bulbs. I was worried they would get confused and come up too soon. A day or so later, while outside with Denali, I noticed something green in the back flower bed. I went to check and sure enough, 4 or 5 leaves were poking out of the ground. I felt sad for them – how could they be fooled by the false hope of spring? I felt mad at the climate – why can’t you just be winter like you’re supposed to?
I can’t blame the bulbs though. They weren’t the only ones lured into a feeling of spring. I never work in the garage in January. That’s not the time for it, but there I was preparing the garage for the next season. I, too, was under the false impression that winter was over. The colder temperatures and falling flurries today tell a different story – it’s still winter.
It is still winter and that’s okay. I need winter. I’m not ready for spring yet. I may say I am, I may act like I am, but I’m not. I’m not ready for blooming. I’m not ready new life. I need to stay in the darkness a little longer. I need permission to hibernate and stay inside. I need more time to rest and wait and just be.
When I saw those leaves poking out of the ground I knew I what I needed to do. I knew that if I pushed too hard, if I made something happen that wasn’t ready to happen, it wouldn’t last. I knew if I ignored the dark and cold of winter, something would bloom out of season and would fade away too quickly. Those leaves reminded me to wait. Those leaves said, “Not yet.”
So, I embrace winter. I don’t like frigid cold temperatures. I don’t like the bare trees and the faded grass. I don’t like the endless gray days. But, this isn’t about what I like – this is what I need. Time to rest. Time to look internally. Time to reflect. If I rush this, spring won’t be what I need it to be either. There’s a purpose for every season. Winter is preparation for spring. By waiting, by being patient, I am giving my soul space to rejuvenate and to prepare for whatever will bloom in me next. I honestly have no idea what that will be. Unlike my bulbs spread out all over our yard that I have mapped out in my garden journal, the blooms that will come out of my winter are unknown to me. But, when the time is right, I will see the sprouts begin to break forth from the broken soil and I will know – “Yes! Now is the time.”
Winter is a lesson about the fine art of loss and growth.
The lesson is clear; There is only one way out of struggle
and that is by going into its darkness,
waiting for the light, and being open to new growth.
– Joan Chittister