February seems to mark the coldest temperatures of our winter, and that has certainly been true for this year. We are lucky to get above zero during the day, and our nighttime cold extends into the teens and twenties below zero. This is the belly of winter – the depths of winter – the take-your-breath-away time of winter. The sun casts long shadows over a landscape covered in snow. The blue sky is lovely but the wind howls and picks up any fresh snow, twirling it in the air and repositioning it with abandon. It’s a time to appreciate basic comforts like warm boots and clothes, furnaces and heat, and the knowledge that in a few months we will crawl out of this belly and eventually into spring.
With snow and temperatures below freezing our winter seems to be more “winter-like” now. We’ve enjoyed many mornings of freezing fog that coats the trees and vegetation with frost and a layer of white. With this rime ice the landscape seems magical, as if Mother Nature has used a paint brush and coated every branch with white. When the sun has appeared (which hasn’t been often) there’s been a beautiful contrast with the blue sky and the ice giving us that “winter wonderland” sensation.
For me this appreciation of the beauty of nature has been an escape from the sad events and turmoil that have roiled our country. I hope each of you has found a moment of peace, whether in nature, with friends, pets, or in the quiet of your own mind.
Christmas and a new year are both fast approaching. Amidst all the preparations I’m looking forward to a more hopeful time. Each morning we see the daylight overcome the dark of night. There’s a promise of a new start, a promise of a bright day.
I hope your upcoming days are filled with peace in your mind, kindness on your lips, and a joyfulness and lightness in your heart.
Here in Minnesota and Wisconsin we are going through our shoulder time from fall to winter. It’s a time that varies from year to year and also varies in its length. We had snow and cold in mid-October and then an unusual warm stretch in early November, causing the lake ice to begin to freeze, then thaw, and now freeze again. It’s a lovely time to observe the transition with open water and lake ice all at the same time.
With a warm glow the late afternoon sun lit up the opposite shoreline and allowed the trees to be reflected in the open water. The ice had been pushed to the north end of the lake by the strong winds that had blown the previous day. But this for moment, stillness and light came together.
This COVID year has seemed long and never-ending, and yet it hasn’t actually been a full year. Many of us say we’re tired of this and just want to get back to “normal.” Yes we’ve been unable to do many of the things we usually do, and yes we’ve been unable to physically visit with the friends and family we usually do, and yes our lives have been changed. But it has also given us the chance for many positive things. IF we have looked with an open and accepting mind and attitude. This year has given us the opportunity to try different and new things and experience things we might not have otherwise. This may be a long list (20 items for the year 2020) but hang with me and think about these things I mention and then think of the things I have overlooked that you have done or experienced. It has certainly not been a wasteful year. And those of us that are alive and well can be thankful that we are here.
- Have you reached out to someone just to see if they’re okay? If there’s anything they need? Do they need a package of toilet paper that you see is available at the store at this one very moment?
- Have you grasped this opportunity to be at home with your kids and taught your son how to ride a bike? And then joined him on numerous bike rides and seen his confidence grow with each one?
- Have you had friends or family make a mask for you? Someone that has taken their time to sew something so essential to all of us – someone that certainly cares for you and for your health?
- Have you been there when your young child falls and gets hurt, comes running to you for your hug and love? Normally you might have been at work, but with a shutdown your job has been remote so you’re at home with your child.
- Have you gone for a walk in your neighborhood or area? Maybe you’ve walked the same path you’ve taken before and maybe you’ve watched as the trees leafed out in the spring, threw their leafy shade over your path in the summer, turned a brilliant orange, yellow, or red in the fall, and then rattled through the air as they fell to the ground around your feet.
- Have you explored a new path? Perhaps you looked down a sidewalk, trail, or road and wondered “what’s down this way?” Why not try it and see something new.
- Have you taken the time to read a book? Maybe it’s one you’ve always meant to read but never have. Maybe it’s one that you like the cover and decided to jump in and see what it’s all about. Or maybe it’s one that a friend has shared with you, and gotten you hooked on a series, and you’ve consumed the entire series by summer’s end.
- Have you made a meal for a friend or loved one and delivered it for them to enjoy? Maybe they were unable to cook or maybe they just needed some cheering up. Maybe it was food that they normally wouldn’t make or maybe it was a pizza they picked up at a neighborhood restaurant.
- Have you binge-watched an old TV show that you didn’t see when it was first on? Or maybe you finally took the time to watch a movie that’s been on your list for longer than you remember?
- Have you learned a new technology? This seems to be the year of Zoom meetings and get-togethers. Imagine what this year would have been like without the internet, cell phones, cable TV, streaming services and all those “techie” things we now take for granted in our everyday lives. How amazing that so many young children are becoming adept at technology, especially with remote learning; they’re leaps and bounds beyond some of us.
- Have you tried something new in the kitchen? Maybe it’s a recipe that you’ve always looked at and thought was way too much trouble. Maybe it’s that one dish you remember your grandmother always made and was so delicious. Maybe it’s cupcakes and the fancy way to frost them so they look like they’ve come from the bakery…and they turn out better than you thought they would for a first attempt.
- Have you thanked the people closest to you for taking care of themselves and keeping healthy? They have showed you they care for you and your health by being careful themselves.
- Have you met a friend at an outside park to catch up and enjoy their company? Was it a sunny day and you could sit outside, or maybe it was a rainy and blustery day but you made the best of it by sitting under a shelter on opposite ends of a picnic table to keep your social distance from one another?
- Have you laid down in the grass (or on the dock) and looked up at that big blue sky overhead and watched the white billowing clouds float by? Maybe you saw the cloud shaped like a horse, riding on the wind. Maybe you saw the fish-shaped cloud riding the waves. Or maybe you found a cloud shaped like a bear, but remembered it’s only a cloud, and you’re safe where you are.
- Have you stepped out into that first snowy day and raised your head, opened your mouth, and caught those first big snowflakes on your tongue, just like you did when you were a child?
- Have you put up your Christmas/holiday lights early this year? The long and dark nights of winter have crept up on us again and sometimes seem to stretch into the distance for many months. Maybe those lights are meant to cheer up your neighbors during their dark nights. And maybe those lights are meant to cheer up yourself.
- Have you chosen to step away from the news and media, even for a short period of time? There’s a wonderful world of peace and quiet around and within each of us. Sometimes it takes some real prodding to go there. Sometimes we learn things about ourselves – the things that matter most to us, and the people that make our lives so much richer.
- Have you thanked a Veteran this year for their service to our country? And similar, have you thanked a health-care worker, a firefighter, an EMT, a law enforcement officer, a day-care worker, a scientist, a researcher, or a teacher for their work that has been so crucial this year?
- Have you stopped for a minute and taken a deep breath and smelled the air that surrounds you, listened for any sounds that are nearby, and with your eyes really looked at all the beauty that is within your sight?
- Have you made plans for things you want to do when all our restrictions are lifted and we’re “back to normal?” I hope that they include some of the new things we’ve taken the opportunity to experience this year – the new things that we now know are so crucial to our intersecting lives with the rest of our neighbors and humanity.
With gratitude, Linda