Discovering Late Winter
I woke early that morning. The moon was bright and nearly like daylight at 5 AM. I don’t always do this, but sometimes it happens naturally and I roll with it. Changes that come with your 30’s are funny. Some feel natural and some feel hard to accept, but becoming a morning person has been one that surprises me the most. As I slowly stretched and woke myself up, I looked out our window that is one of our favorite views in our home. From there we can see over snow-covered hills and layers of land of Leelanau. As I look out as I have many mornings and nights this winter, something was different. There stood packs of deer wandering over the hills and meandering through the sumac at the edge of the hill we live on. They stepped through the snow gracefully wandering down the ravines. I woke Mike because it was the first time we had seen them since we moved in. I then whispered in the dark to him, “Spring is coming…”
2 weeks later here we are tapping maple trees and prepping our yard for the upcoming spring season. There is hard work ahead of us and more work to be done. Great things take time and owning a home is a lesson in that. But I think so are the seasons. Watching the world have a rhythm and step daily into new seasons and out of old ones is a refreshing promise that small steps forward or backward can sometimes always be in the plan whether we realize it or not.
This last week as I wandered our land feeling the trees as they warmed and collected the rocks that had been hidden under the snow to make way for seeding our grass, I became aware of a new season that sometimes we miss here in Northern Michigan. There is the season of Late winter. For many of us this is when we cannot wait to hop a plane to somewhere warm. Even though we ourselves have trips planned in the coming weeks, I am learning and finding such beauty in this season. This is the time before the crocuses pop-up or the asparagus shows up through the dirt. There is this beautiful time between the deep parts of winter and the first real days of spring. This time sometimes can be short but this year already I know it will be longer than normal. It began the day the deer wandered in packs through our yard and the coyotes crying at night woke me out of a deep sleep. This is when we tap our maple trees and switch out our parka for a lighter warm coat. It is when we first roll down our window on a sunny day in February while wearing sunglasses. This is Late Winter.
We cannot call it spring because that it is not. It is the space between the wild winter storms that cover the world in heavy layers of snow. It is when we know in our souls we must pack away the snow sports and replace them with our gardening tools. It is the time when the trees turn greener even when the snow still is on the ground and it is when the branches of the cherry trees brighten to a burnt red all of a sudden. The signs are all there and I am noticing more than ever living here. I am watching small eco-systems of moss brighten to spring greens even while under the last bits of snow. Late winter doesn’t promise we are in the clear from the snow or ice because we aren’t. It will come again and we will shovel our way to our car another time or more. Our winter boots still have a place, but so do our wool socks and rain boots.
Wandering the woods this last week with Hayes, I saw glimpses of spring here. I felt the warmth of the sun and could smell the earth for the first time since fall. I felt renewed, but I knew this was just the height of late winter on us. This is how the earth brings the flowers and calls the birds back home and the animals out of hibernation. The world awakens during Late Winter and we should follow suit. March is sometimes a hard month in northern states here. The ebb and flow of warm and cold days brings sickness and sometimes bad moods when the warmth doesn’t stick around, but I have learned this is how we prepare for the warmer and fuller months of the year. We use these final weeks of Late Winter to awaken to the earth again and to life outdoors again. We can even use our days of being sick as a reminder that rest is necessary. We can use this tug and pull between winter and spring to help us find gratitude in the warmth and the cold. For me, knowing it is all part of the plan is necessary.
The things I learn from the world around us in a seasonal climate are life-giving. The connection we make with the world around us and how it moves is incredibly meditative. Watching our world step into spring and back into winter reminds me that when we are doing any great work we don’t move forward all the time. Sometimes we are still. Sometimes we are sprinting. Sometimes we are stepping backward. But no matter the direction if we know the way we are meant to head that is the most important thing.
Spring is coming and in fact, I dare say a little earlier this year. Sure we will see snow storms still, but the color of the ground, the movement of the deer, the smells when the sun comes out are all indicators that this winter season is saying its final farewell this month.