Winter: The Call To Slow Down & Notice
I grew up in the Midwest. Winter in the Midwest is not easy, nor is it particularly pretty. The hallmarks of a Midwestern winter are not for the faint of heart.
Grey skies that begin in November and hold on through the first gasp of spring in April.
Rock-hard piles of blackened snow pushed to the edges of each parking lot by the ubiquitous snowplows.
Icy, cold wind that you can feel in your bones.
And the quiet. Oh, the quiet. …As a new mom, I often find myself longing for moments of quiet, but the quiet of a Midwestern winter is different. After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, Midwesterners settle in for the long, dreary months of January and February and, even, March and April.
People put their heads down and endure the long, grey days. We are made of stronger stuff and we push through – snow and cold are abundant, but snow days are few and far between. Birds are not singing, squirrels are not squeaking, and there are even few dogs barking. These animals know that winter is not going anywhere, anytime soon.
There are seasons in all of our lives that feel a lot like winter. The endless grey skies feel a little bit like hopelessness. It’s almost a choking feeling with no cloud breaks to let in the light. Those mounds of snow are so big, it is hard to believe they will ever melt. Maybe the icy, cold wind in your life is a nagging loneliness that continues to blow in when you least expect it.
And the quiet. Oh, the quiet. …The times when it seems God is silent. The waiting for a call from a doctor or for an answer to a prayer. It is easy to assume in times when all is quiet that God is not speaking or listening. We fear that God has stopped working on our behalf.
Nature needs winter. Snow provides much needed moisture for the growth of spring. The darkness comes so that we may appreciate the light. Plants and flowers have long since bloomed and have now returned to the earth. They will return in their own time. In the same way, we need the quiet that Midwestern winters can bring.
Winter has much to offer us when we can move beyond the initial shock of it. The stillness, the quiet, and the darkness call us inward. I borrow this refrain from Tess Ward’s The Celtic Wheel of the Year: