The weather is changing. If we watch closely, we can see the flowers turning to seeds, the fruit dropping to create new life in the ground, the chipmunks hoarding seeds in their burrows. The squirrels making winter homes in our attics… (well, I hope the squirrel thing is NOT happening!)
It is a time of harvest. The warmth of the summer’s sun has been made available to us in the fruits and vegetables of our gardens and farms. In this part of the world, we are gathering to prepare for the cold days coming ahead. We can do this more easily because we are assured that those days will end and spring will return in some fashion.
The world is transforming. New colors seem to appear overnight in the trees and bushes that will have only quiet, unadorned branches. Flowers that had become little bits of fruits are not full and ready for us to store for the days ahead. The trees either have adapted to the cold or shut down so that they might survive the cold.
We know it is coming, so we prepare in our city ways. Some of us stack wood for the wood burning stoves; others of us make sure our furnaces are cleaned and safe. We find our winter coats, may even hopefully checking for the change or bills that were left in the pockets from last winter.
Some of us may preserve what came from our gardens. Others of us just lament the lack of relatively inexpensive fresh fruit and vegetables. We make sure the snow blower is working or that the handles of the show shovels are still attached.
BUT we prepare. WE know what is coming. It will be cold. It will be harder to get around. There will be real work to be done just to get out of the house at times. But we also KNOW it will end, so our time of winter is not overwhelming. Spring will come eventually.
Did you know that some seeds need to be frozen in order to germinate?
Likewise, some of our strengths and realizations of deep truths only become germinated in the winters of the soul. Only when we are stripped bare of all our adornment can we see our true selves.
And within the core of each of our true selves, there beats a life force that is always below the frost line. It does not go away.
That force is the thing that Americans found for a few weeks after 9/11. It is the thing that makes us jump into rivers to save people we never saw before. It is the thing that makes us forget all our societal concerns and only know the force that makes us alive. It is what makes us cry at sunsets and be in awe every time a baby is born and every time someone draws the last breath. It is available to us at every moment; we only need to look for it.
How do evergreens stay green even in the time of winter? They have learned how to take care of themselves! They have developed chemicals within their leaves that make the freezing point much lower than what they encounter during the season. They have developed needlelike leaves to keep from dehydrating. Thus, because their leaves stay with them, they can produce food throughout the winter.
We have to decide what we believe in. And then we really have to believe it, live it. Beliefs are not something to wonder or talk about. They are to be part and parcel of our every word, thought, and action.
So, we find a way to help ourselves to be reminded of what we believe. If riding a bike calms us, then that is what we do, even if it is just an indoor bike. For some it is singing. For others it may be painting. For another it may be prayer.
What works is not important except that it is action and not numbing our despair. What is important is that we find a way to center ourselves and practice it so that the winters of our lives do not freeze us in despair.
What is your way?
The words found here were written by the caretakers of APOL and students