Winter Comes

Lone tree in a plowed winter field

Audio recording of this content

Winter is coming, or at least it should be. Temperatures here in Minnesota keep easing upwards into the forties to fifties (F), making winter seem like a faint childhood memory. But according to the calendar Winter Solstice is around the corner or here or already passed, depending on whether I get this post done on time and where you live.

Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, marking the beginning of winter. It’s the day when the earth is tilted as far away from the Sun as possible, which means the Sun’s path is as low in the sky as it can be. Supposedly, if you go out at noon on the day of the Winter Solstice, you will cast the longest shadow of the year—something to check out if it’s not cloudy.   

Winter Without Snow

Small dog looking out into a field

I’d prefer a snowy winter, but my desires don’t appear to pull much weight with the powers that be. I’d settle for rain, but beyond a few drizzles—nada. 

If I was still working, I’d be listening to people in my office talking about how great the weather is while I, the perpetual downer of the department, would be trying to make them smell the coffee they were guzzling and realize this is climate change and it’s deadly! At which point, people would roll their eyes and move to the other side of the room.

No one online wants to hear this either, so I won’t tarry too long on my environmental anxiety. I was thinking of starting a ritual of bringing a thermos of water to the Mississippi River and to a particular oak tree I call Grandmother. Not that it will help either the tree or the lower river levels, but it would let them know they’re on my mind, and I’m concerned about their welfare. Sometimes it helps to know someone cares, even if they can’t fix the problem. Right? 

Hopefully Pessimistic

Woman standing under oak trees

Out on a recent walk, I looked for the beauty in the stark, bare grayness of it all. The trees are like skeletons, pointing to the sky. They, too, are wondering where the precipitation is. On one of my many worry-filled days, I wrote in my journal:

In other words, I am a little overly dramatic…

Man and small dog standing in a field.

I may also be a negative Nellie, but I’m not completely without hope. Well, sometimes I am, but then I desperately seek something, someone, somewhere to crank up the hope meter for me. 

Which is why I’ve been binging on Sharon Blackie’s This Mythic Life and Hagitude podcasts. In 2020, Blackie interviewed Tom Hiron, a Dartmoor, England poet, writer, and storyteller. On Hiron’s website, he says, “There’s much to lament and grieve, and much to be angry about and take action against, but to be alive is an incredible thing. We do not know when death or disaster will take us, so let us live fully while we may and nourish the web of life around us as much as we possibly can.”

Though admittedly a pessimist, Hiron said that doesn’t mean he isn’t hopeful—that he has hope for the world based on his love for it. I bring up this interview because I relate so much to this conflict between both loving the world and grieving for so many losses and harms. 

Despite the hard work of scientists, environmentalists, activists, and individuals doing amazing things to save this planet and the life forms that depend on it, things continue to get worse. I read a recent Axios article about how the wildfires in the last seven years have undone decades of air quality improvements from pollution reduction efforts in 30 states, according to a Climate Central analysis. How do you avoid numbing out? How do you not feel as if nothing you do makes a difference, so why keep trying? 

This is where hope comes in. This is where I think about what it means to be human and to love this world and all of its amazing gifts. Energetically, I still believe what we do matters. That the energy we put out into the world affects a change, even if our eyes don’t see it. So I’ll keep trying to make life better out there. 

Let’s Pause for a Moment

I’ve seen people on Instagram and Substack who are taking time away from social media, email, the internet, and electronics for a day or even two weeks. A break to have time to reflect on 2023 and look ahead to 2024. Time to quiet the information overload and noise. Time to read books for fun and take walks where the only thing coming into our ears is the crunch of our feet and bird chatter if we’re lucky.  

I’m thinking that sounds like an excellent idea. Although, I’m questioning how to pull it off, how to resist what is often the only connection I have with other humans and what is going on in their lives. Still, I’m going to give it a try in one form or another. I’ll let you know how it goes. Well, unless I totally fail. No, even then, because we could use some bare ass honesty in this world.

What about you? Do you have any rituals to recover from the chaos, to replenish your creative energy and spirit? To reflect on what went well in 2023 and what parts of your life you might like to change next year?

In whatever ways you mark this time of year, I wish you well. May you have love, good friends, and peace in your life.

Three ducks flying above the surface of the Mississippi River

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