Living in the Canadian prairies means that winter snows are a part of life. Half the year actually. As an optimist, my natural cheeriness can be challenged as the winter snows begin. It can be easy to feel discouraged as the sun dips below the horizon for longer and longer hours of the day. It can be easy to feel disheartened when the weather (Mother Nature?) occasionally decides ~ as happened this year ~ to skip the season of Autumn, making me miss a favourite of mine. For a gardener like myself, it can be easy to feel saddened that tasks must wait for months before I can return to joyfully communing with nature in my garden.
However, I choose to focus on the flip side. The half-full glass. I fully believe that everything in life provides us with an opportunity to choose how we will respond, or react. And if I can do it while feeling buried underneath a foot of snow, anyone can.
As a gardener I see this as a perfect time to focus extra care and attention on the indoor plants. It’s the perfect time to sit down and plan for next spring, deciding if any perennials need to be moved, looking forward to the spring bulbs coming up, and deciding on adjustments to the garden. This time of year we enjoy a reprieve from flying and crawling insects, and can leave the outside lights on to illuminate the way to the door without encouraging flocks of moths. I give thanks for the fact that many diseases which torment the temperate parts of the world cannot survive the freezing months up here where I live. The early twilight at this time of year makes it wonderful for stargazing, and after-dinner firepits in the backyard with a cup of hot chocolate are an absolute delight.
Then I contemplate the beauty. There is an awesome beauty in the northern winter that is unmatched for its crystal clear serenity. Those moments I’ve been lucky enough to witness the intricate designs of snowflakes landing on my car window and showing off their designs illuminated by the street light as I wait for my car to warm, those moments will always be held precious. To actually witness – for that instant before it melts – how each is incredibly gorgeous, and definitely different. I will always find that to be profound. And the diversity of moods this season holds is fascinating! From the awesomely tender gentleness of minuscule snowflakes, silently accumulating and slowly dusting the ground, to the horrifyingly powerful blizzards bending trees over, pounding snow, and howling with gales around the eaves.
Winter is a season that demands respect. Those who fail to understand its danger risk losing toes, or worse. So my family stores blankets and extra outerwear in our vehicles, we keep candles and matches in the glovebox (not to mention gloves!) and we avoid unnecessary travel during storms. And I give heartfelt thanks every time my loved ones and I are delivered safely to our destinations, and back home again.
I give thanks for so many things: for my home and its consistent warmth, and my crockpot filled with simmering stew. For the snowplow operators busy clearing streets and helping make them passable. For transit workers driving their buses and trains, soldiering on through storms when my husband’s car is better left in the garage. And on the coldest days that dip below -25, I give thanks for our fenced backyard as a place for my dog to ‘go’ when it’s too cold to walk around the block.
And I give thanks for the coziness and quiet introspection that only this frozen season brings. In my studies of Native American Spirituality, we are all to be grateful for this time of year to go within. This is a time for crafts, games with family, and daily prayer time for remembering how much we have to be thankful for. I Thank You God for everything, even these cold months of winter snows.