Now ends the winter of our discontent.
In just a few hours, spring officially begins. (Well, astronomical spring. Meteorological spring began 20 days ago, and who knows when actual spring will arrive?) The general consensus, from a cursory reading of social media and several months of complaints about the weather, is that this spring will be a welcome sight.
Because it's been a hard winter.
It's been a winter of brutally cold temperatures and unfathomable wind chills. Of deciding it's worth it to bundle up and get out of the house at -18 degrees because you just need to get out of the house. Of shoveling snow and then more snow only to reveal the unbreakable layer of ice beneath. Of 50 lb. bag of salt after 50 lb. bag of salt. Of frozen gutters and ice dams and roof damage. Not to mention all those wonderful mornings when you have to break into your own car, and pray you don't set the alarm off. There have been what seems like far too many just grey days. I don't know. Maybe winter always feels this dreary. Maybe we just forget from year-to-year.
There are those who want to live in a place without winter. Those who have been commenting already for months that it's time for winter to go away. People who like snow on Christmas and then never again, who can tolerate the cold for a few days or maybe a few weeks, but not much longer. Who can't wait for the clocks to change because it means the sun seemingly stays out a little longer, and that's a good sign.
I am not one of those people. I understand the need for winter. Not because I love snow (I do). Not because it's easier to warm up than to cool down (it is. Blankets!). Not even because winter is that rare phenomenon where you can see both the sun and the moon at the same time (ok, a little bit. That's glorious!). But because I need some down time. I need some quiet time. I need a space for things to settle, and yes...even for things to die.
That's the foundational principle of winter - that things die. That the leaves wither. That the flowers fall. That the ground lies dormant for just a season. But it is also the time of renewal because tucked into the dormant soil is the seed of spring, something new that is dying to grow - quite literally. Aching to live again. Longing to be what it was created to be. Not a seed any longer, but a beautiful flower. Not a nut, but a tree. Not a fleck of dirt but a blade of grass. All of Creation is using its darkest season to develop its glory.
I have read more than once in the past few months a friend or family member lament the winter. "Ugh," they'll say. "Why do we even need winter?" I smile. Because everything needs a season to quit its unsustainable life and gather its glory. Because all of Creation recognizes it cannot live forever, but it can live again. That's the nature of the winter - it is glorious preparation for the spring.
Maybe it's hitting me differently this year because I've been in sort of a winter of my own. Maybe it's because there are things in my life that are dying - some that are just coming to pass me by, others that I am prayerfully letting go of. Maybe it's because I am aware of the dormancy and the hesitancy, yet at the same time profoundly aware of the preparedness and nervous excitement. Aware of the thing that has gone away and feeling the tingle of the thing that is coming. I don't know.
The past few months have been quite a season of change for me, and there is no better parallel in nature than the season of winter. It has been a time of powerful quiet that has settled over my life, although some days, it feels anything but. (Think blizzard in the middle of an otherwise-soft winter. It happens.) I can almost feel the gathering glory just beneath the surface, something inside me that is dying to grow. Quite literally. That is aching to live again, or maybe for the first time. That is longing to be what it was created to be and can finally almost understand perhaps what that is.
I'm looking forward to spring, whenever it gets here. I can't wait to see what's growing bloom into its full glory. Flipping the astronomical calendar is one good sign. Less than three hours now until time ends the winter of our discontent.