Saturday, March 15, 2014

Waiting for spring

In order to paint an accurate picture of spring in Minnesota, or any other place where the people who willingly live there describe their state as "frozen tundra" for 4, just kidding, 5 months of the year, I must first present winter to you.

Like an idiot, I grabbed the camera, put the baby in winter woolens, and ran outside with camera in hand to document him in his first snowfall. As though I wouldn't have 47 other chances to take a picture of him in snow. It was early November.

Well, that's not entirely true. I'm glad I got a picture of Asher in his first snowfall and I love snow, so bring it on, winter. We'll happily sled and ski and snow angel and all that fun stuff. What I have a problem with is the use of the term Polar Vortex multiple times in one winter. It's worse when it's used multiple times in one week. The street in front of our house has been under ice and snow since January. We vaguely remember grass, but if it's still there, it's under 4 feet of snow. My kids walk on the snow, fall through up to their hips, lose their boots in the snow, and come in wet-socked and crying. It happened to me as a kid and it'll happen to my grandkids someday as well. It's what makes us hardy. At least that's what we tell ourselves when we see pictures of California in the winter.

It's cold. It's windy. It's snowy. It's actually stunningly beautiful, all white earthed and blue skyed. It's also shockingly cold. You run from house to car to work to errand and back again with as little skin exposed as possible and breathing as few painfully cold breaths as possible. There comes a point every winter where, as a state, we collectively wonder what in the world our ancestors were thinking and why in the heck we haven't moved.

And there you have it. Winter. There is a very valid reason the travel industry makes bank from northerners in February.

Then spring comes. The calendar says March. We have waited for this for months. It's warmer. It's windy. It's muddy. We don't care. We put on our t-shirts and shorts when it's 45 degrees and hang out in our muddy, icy yard and talk and play with neighbors we haven't seen all winter. Someone usually comes out with a belly full of gestating baby. What can I say? Winter gets boring. We're resourceful people.

Then today I spotted it on my run. The first ugly branch poking through the snow. It belonged to a little evergreen bush, long forgotten in a long winter. Man was it ever ugly. Brownish gray melting snow giving way to this misshapen green branch poking out of the middle of nowhere.
Yet I saw it and instantly thought: miracle.

Winter is a time of death. The ground shrivels up, our skin shrivels up, and sometimes it is so dark for so long that it feels like our souls shrivel up. We all reach toward the sun for a hint of warmth. Just a hint to tide us over for better days. Warmth and summer and life itself feel so far away.

I am thinking of the obvious winter outside my door, but I'm also thinking of the proverbial winter that can reside in my heart. The winter that darkens my mood and sours my days and closes me off to the wonder around me. Gray, silent, neverending, bitter winter. My words snap. My gaze shoots daggers. My silence echoes.

I have been reading a lot of books about resurrection lately. The Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Webber and Stitches by Anne Lamott spring to mind first. About laying down the ugly in us day in and day out. About letting the good rise up. About how, as humans, we want to do this once and be done with it, but, as humans, we will have to do it every day, over and over. About how winter hits us again and again, relentlessly, from all angles. About how we never have to stay there.

We never have to stay there. I'm saying that again because it bears repeating. There have been so many times I haven't believed that. I have been so deep in depression. So stuck in despair. I have felt so low and so sure that this valley was my new forever.

But I was forgetting about spring. About resurrection. About the power found in giving up the notion that we are alone and that we can fix it ourselves. About the fact that relying on the help of our family, our community, our God might just be the first step in turning winter into spring. About clinging to that ugly green spring branch sticking out of the ugly gray winter, holding on for dear life, turning your face to the rising sun, and hanging on. Hanging on for warmth and summer and the return of life. Hanging on for the everyday miracle.

We will all break, fall, hurt, feel the harsh sting of winter on our tender, broken skin. But it isn't forever. Hang on, my friends. Spring is coming.

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