We’ve turned the calendar page to a new month and new year. But we’ve also started gaining more daylight with each day. At first it seems imperceptible and yet those half minutes eventually add up.
In the north we are still in the depths of winter. The snow is getting deeper and we’re continuing to get slaps of polar temperatures from the north. Our cold will continue for another month or more. My coping mechanism is to follow the light and the increasing daylight. The sun will slowly rise to a higher angle and it will shine through our coldness for a longer time each day. Eventually our part of the planet will tip towards the south and we will say goodbye to our cold temperatures and short days. But until then, I plan to embrace (as best I can!) the cold and the beauty of winter.
And here we are at the close of another year. Through all the difficulties and uncertainties of this past year I hope you have also found time for appreciation, happiness, and wonder. May you look back on 2021 as a year fully-lived, and look forward to the new year with hope and joy in a new day’s dawning.
Neighborhood walks have become my thing. And I’m only now realizing how important, and fun, they are for me. On Thanksgiving I read of a challenge for people to get outside for 30 minutes everyday for 101 days. That intrigued me and I realized that with my walking I cover a little less than two miles in 30 minutes. So I decided to challenge myself to walk two miles everyday until the end of the year. And then I saw that if I walked three or four miles for a dozen or so of those days I could reach 400 miles for the year of 2021. The goal was set and the challenge was on.
I started walking more regularly after I broke my leg in February 2020. My physical therapy was to get motion and movement to my ankle after the bones were pinned and screwed back together. Around the block was a challenge in those first months, but I stayed with it and went more blocks every few days. And with that increasing distance I learned and observed new things. This was near the beginning of our COVID-19 lockdown. I saw window signs of thanks to our front-line workers and I saw sidewalk chalk drawings of rainbows and better days. I walked through the months of signs about George Floyd and then election signs, both local and national. And I observed the Halloween decorations morph into Christmas lights and blowup Santas and snowmen, followed by the spring flowers, the green grass of summer, and the brilliance of fall leaves.
I don’t wear earbuds or headphones when I’m walking — I prefer to be open to the sounds and sights around me. I’ve heard the happy squeals of children out on the playground during recess and the honking of geese flying high overhead. I’ve seen eagles above me, the first spring crocus emerging from the snow, a nest full of robin’s eggs, and deer crossing the path ahead of me. I’ve learned how to dress for the different weather – a baseball hat for summer’s sun and a tightly knit fleece-lined beanie for winter’s cold; waterproof boots for rain and thickly lined heavy boots for snow. And I’ve used the time to think — to process things that are bothering me, to think of lessons learned from the past, and to dream of future adventures.
Yesterday was a busy and full day with a long list of things to be done. I was up early, shoveled the light snow that had fallen overnight, then made a quick trip to the grocery store. Things to be tidied up at home, a visit to a loved one in the hospital, and quickly the daylight was passing by and I hadn’t gone for my walk. A half hour before sunset and feeling a bit stressed I put on my boots, hat, gloves, and heavy coat and headed out the door. With each step I got out of my head and started to look around me. The fresh snow was still lovely on the ground, and as the sun was starting its descent to the horizon it spread its light all around. In the distance I could hear the wolves at the Como zoo howling and the squeals of children riding their sleds down the hills. As I walked near the golf course at Como Park I looked to the east and was greeted with a pale full moon rising over the snow covered hills. I saw a group of skiers that had stopped to take in the sight too. These are the moments of delight that get me out of the house on my walk each day. I returned home with a new attitude.
So I have 12 days remaining before year end and 19.9 miles to go. Plenty of time for more delight and joy and to think of new challenges for 2022.
With a quick plummet of the temperatures we are now in winter. Our unusually long and temperate autumn has disappeared. The ducks and geese have departed for warmer areas and open water. Only the oak trees are hanging on to their brittle brown leaves, rattling in the cold wind. The ground is starting to freeze, the snow is starting to fall, and the ice is forming. There’s a hush that settles in during winter — a peace and quiet all its own.
And just like that, Mother Nature has flipped a switch and we’re at the end of fall. It’s been a glorious and unusually long season this year in the upper Midwest but like all good things it has come to an end. Five days ago the wind was still, the sun was shining, and the only colors remaining were from the oaks with their remaining rusty leaves. Today the temperatures have fallen, the wind has removed any remaining leaves from the trees, and we have a forecast of snow.
Sometimes the change of seasons can be disconcerting to me, especially the ones where the days become shorter and the darkness becomes longer. But I’m reminded that just like the leaves that have fallen from the trees, it is all temporary. There will still be beauty in the coming season and days but it will be in a different palette – one of white – and the landscape will take on a new cloak of loveliness.