Embracing the Lessons of Winter

2023 marks the second full year that I’ve been at Sky Meadow as a caretaker. One of the most rewarding aspects so far, for me, has been getting to know the various plants and trees of the land in all their different seasonal forms. It’s a bit cliché but only because it’s true — nature is brimming with lessons to teach us, if we are willing to slow down and listen.

This, for example, is late winter yarrow. She’s lovely, of course, but she’s not in the usual form we think of. In fact, she looks quite dead! It’s winter, after all. We know intuitively that to expect her to produce lush green foliage or fresh flowers in this season would be ludicrous. If, somehow, she were to try, she would probably die. Her vital energy is all safely underground now, in her roots where it belongs, while the snow and cold does its thing. And we’ll see her again above ground when the time is right.

We do ourselves a disservice, I think, when we forget that we too are nature, and we are subject to the same rules. So many of us have been out here trying to exert endless spring & summer energy and never really resting. It’s no wonder so many people are also reporting staggering levels of burnout. A level of exhaustion which we fear may never leave us. Perhaps those of us in such a situation would benefit from remembering that winter is an essential part of the cycle of life. We cannot have perpetual growth without periods of meaningful letting go and rest. To expect otherwise is just as silly as expecting this yarrow to be green and vibrant when the weekend forecast predicts -10-degree weather.

Of course, all of this is far from a new or remotely original concept. Many people much wiser than me have been observing nature’s lessons for literal millennia. But in a world where many of us have become alienated from these patterns, I think it’s worth reaffirming again and again. As a former city person I can certainly say that such lessons have been incredibly healing for me.

Cancelling all our obligations and responsibilities is not exactly feasible for most of us, and there are certainly many obstacles large and small that people are up against. But I hope that we do not wait until our lives, or the world around us, adhere to some kind of “ideal” before we begin to take back moments for ourselves. We must do what we can to tend our roots as a vital part of the cycle.

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