I saw a dark-eyed junco outside my window the other day, stepped outside to meet the frost-laden grass and heard the songs of winter: the songs of the dark-eyed junco.
This bird making its way back to Connecticut indicates how Game of Thrones was right; winter is coming. It’s time to tuck away our summer gardens, bring the cozy sweaters out of the boxes and fill our mugs to the brim with hot tea and honey.
My whole life, I have been a summer gal. This past summer, I spent each day barefoot working on a farm down the road from my house. If I could wake up with a morning joe in hand while I let the goats out, watered the greenhouse and walked around the fields every summer for the rest of my life, I would. That’s what summer is: planning my days around the amount of daylight, maximizing my time in the sun and acquainting myself with the planet around me.
It’s difficult because I try to align my life in accordance with the seasons. Come winter, I try to see the ways in which I can slow down, let old ways die and reform myself in preparation for the spring. It’s like an imitation of the changes that come each New England season: some moments I try to embrace the liveliness of July, the softening of November, reflection of January and revitalization of April. To live in stagnancy, to spend too much time in one season, does no good for the soul.
OK. So I ask myself, “Then what?” Like so many others, I dread the winter months. Summer reminds me of life and joy and spending days in the ocean learning new ways of being alive. Winter reminds me of desolate periods where darkness fills more space than light — where it’s so dull and dismal that even the plants lose their vitality.
I’m determined this year to not project the dismay of winters past onto these next few months. I love summer because of what a celebration it is. How can I channel similar energy into the winter months? How can the crystals forming from yesterday’s snowfall bring as much beauty as the dahlia’s petals in the sunlight? Because there is beauty there. Come December morning, when the dark-eyed juncos sing and the sunlight glistens off the snow, I know I can find beauty in darkness.
It’s time we put effort into embracing the “wintering” that comes each year. The quietude is not something to be feared; in the absence of summer’s noise, what is left to hear?
In November at the farm, we plant garlic for next year’s bounty. We tend to the earth and prepare her for next year’s season.
What seeds can I plant and nurture this winter? In what ways can I use this time of rest to prepare myself for next summer?
This is not to say that winter is going to be a consistently “jolly ole time.” Just as summer has its bad days, winter will too. This is more to say that there can be concerted efforts into cultivating positive times in these cold months. As someone who finds most of their serotonin in things outside that are touched by sunlight, winter is daunting. It’s cold and menacing and makes my bones shiver.
I can accept that and still find what is good in each day.