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Receiving winter

First slide

It feels like 7 degrees outside this morning. (The actual temperature is a balmy 16.) It’s still dark, and I’ve already taken the dog for a brisk walk. The sun will set at 4:30 p.m. It will be very dark before dinner time. Winter has a stronghold on the northeast.

And I’m glad.

Winter is exactly what I need right now. I need the gift of this cold, dark season. I’m not romanticizing it. Winter is hard; I know that. We will battle ice that perpetually glazes our driveway and the walkways between the house and garage. And this winter, our makeshift kitchen will be in that garage as we renovate the kitchen that came with the 250-year-old house. Every day, there will be hats and gloves and boots before the first sip of coffee is even a possibility.

But I’m still glad for winter. I’m glad for the previously gloriously bright garden that is now stark lines in shades of gray. It’s a relief, really. A chance to pause. I know that some of the garden’s best work is happening in this season that seems still and dormant. The cold has put an end to the mosquitoes and the other pests of summer. I find myself praying for deep snows that melt slowly so that the soil has an opportunity to be well-nourished by nitrogen-rich snowmelt that will seep nutrients into next spring’s blooms.

I think about that winter garden all the time, about the good that can happen in a season when the earth receives rather than produces.

Resolutions swirl all about me. On social media, on television, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, in the grocery store. Everyone is talking about doing more, climbing higher. It’s so much clanging that falls on deaf ears. I am challenged and inspired by the silence of the garden.

Maybe instead of striving, this season is intended by our Creator to be one of receiving. Maybe winter is a gift, a present to be accepted and slowly unwrapped.

It is the season of patience, of waiting, of watching with expectant wonder. Can we do that? Instead of being distracted and discouraged by the darkness and the frost that needs to be scraped from the windshield and the remarkable cold, can we open our eyes to the possibility that this season is the one that is growing spring? This is when dreams have time to germinate. This is when hope puts down roots. This is our season of restoration.

Stripped of summer’s abundance, our souls are bared. Naked in the cold and dark, they reach heavenward toward the gray light. This is our season of patience and presence. Be here in it now, not wishing it away, not preferring that it be spring. See it as it is.

My shelves are stacked with volumes purchased before our first winter here. All of them have covers in crisp white and winter blue, with Scandinavian motifs. I had been warned that winter was hard, and I readied myself with research. I learned all about hygge, the Danish and Norwegian word for a lifestyle accentuating coziness and contentment. From the people who know winter well and “do” winter best, I “discovered” wisdom that — quite honestly — I already intuited. Build fires, read stories, cook soup low and slow, and eat it by candlelight. Get outside and let the brisk air clean your lungs and clear your mind. Come indoors and rest.

Live the season of patience and hope, receive it with open, mittened hands and a willing heart.

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, writes from Connecticut.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2022

@elizabethfoss