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Weeds: This season will pass

Why would we have expected anything else? After a miserable spring, we had a miserable fall. Late planted crops matured late, no surprise. The bad days it rained or snowed. The good days were cold and cloudy. It wasn’t much fun.

There were few of those sun-dappled autumn days where it is a joy to be outside, with a jacket in the morning that comes off in the afternoon. We had maybe a couple hours like that. In the end, we had time to get things done, barely, finishing in mud.

There were weeks of below-normal temperatures. When we finally got a few days of normal, it was mid-November when normal isn’t exactly shorts-weather. I was hopeful to have a chance to put the farm to bed properly before winter. There is always work at the end of harvest to clean, grease, oil, fix, and shed. I try to be nice to my machines after beating the hell out of them.

Things have a way of working a lot better next year if they are properly stored away. Tired and beat up myself, there is always the temptation to back things in the shed and go have a beer. In the old days, we would have been told not to put up our horse wet. Equipment is like that. Especially the combine. If it’s not cleaned, rodents from several sections around come to take up residence.

I got a reminder that my plans aren’t always nature’s plans when a Winter Storm Warning popped up on my phone. Huh? Fall’s over? That was it?

I rushed to do two weeks of work in a day. Besides machinery, there are other things around a farm to get ready for winter. Plus there are things around the house and porch. Pam gives me lists of tasks that I can ignore while we’re harvesting, but not a minute past if I want a healthy marriage.

Amid this all, day length shrinks. Light becomes precious. Work ends up being done by yard light, flashlight, and headlight. All those are less efficient than God’s own sunlight.

In these northern climes, winter is the elephant among the seasons. This is true for southern climes on the bottom of the globe opposite our calendar. You might be able to slide through spring, summer, and fall without a lot of thought. But not winter. You better have food, clothing, and shelter, with an emphasis on the latter. If you remember the fable of the grasshopper and the ant, things don’t end well for the grasshopper.

This was strikingly true for those who lived here in the past. Both the Native Peoples and the settlers spent most of the warm months preparing for the cold months. Gathering, growing, putting up food, securing shelter, stockpiling heating materials: if you fell short on any of these, it wasn’t an inconvenience. It meant you weren’t likely to see spring.

Thankfully, the world most of us live in today is more forgiving. For people of some means, it’s possible to live mostly outside the seasons. Climate-controlled home, vehicle, workplace, heated garage, shopping at the mall or at your computer. The seasons provide entertainment: hunting, boating, skiing. But they aren’t life threatening.

There’s prepping for winter that goes on outside, but I’ve noticed as I get older, I have to prep for winter inside. I mean, inside my head. “Seasonal Affective Disorder” is now recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders. You can call it “trying not to go bat-crazy” in the winter.

I thought about species besides us humans that find a way to survive and even thrive in the winter. Plants have gone to seed or hardened off. Some critters are burrowed in to hibernate. Others are out there running around friskily any time the sun is shining. It made me think I should be a little tougher, like the squirrels and rabbits in our grove. But then I find a dead squirrel out there and think maybe not.

There are all those birds that took wing south. I have friends now who are opting for migration, following the birds. They look smarter and smarter every year. I think of them with a jealous sneer as I do a spontaneous dance across our icy yard trying to stay upright.

At least we know winter is coming. We have a calendar and plenty of evidence in nature. It may come early and harshly, but it’s not a surprise. But there can be “winters” in our life that aren’t as predictable. These are times of metaphorical winter, when it’s dark and cold in our lives, when the sun doesn’t shine much.

These might be a relationship turning bad, problems at work or losing a job, an illness for you or someone close. All lives will have these, some more than others. Unlike seasonal winter that is equally distributed, metaphorical winters can be very unfairly allocated. Sometimes they can pile up in our lives.

We can’t look at a calendar and know to prepare for these times, like putting fuel treatment in the gas tank. But there are things we can do to ease the hard times that inevitably come.

We can nurture friendships and keep close to family. Friends and family are not a given; they are a blessing and a grace. We can have an inner life. There will come times when you are alone; getting along with yourself will be helpful. We can have a prayer life. It’s good to have a channel open to the Creator all the time, not just to beseech Him in the bad times.

We know the season of winter will pass. Spring will come around. It always has. In the Song of Solomon, we are told, “For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”

We trust that our personal winters will pass, too. It is faith that God will not give us more than we can handle, although sometimes that might be a lot.

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