Winter: The Misunderstood Season
Some of us have a negative view of winter. We see it as a season of cold that disrupts our routine and puts a damper on our fun. Have you ever noticed how some of the weather people speak about winter? They say we will be attacked by a cold front. Or we should prepare ourselves for the invasion of arctic air from Canada. One meteorologist even said that the winter storm is going to deliver a blow to the country’s midsection. Poor winter! It needs a public relations agency to give it a more positive image!
But I recently came across a website that calls winter, “the most misunderstood season of all.” The author addresses his words to people (like me) who live in places where winter is characterized by ice, snow, and freezing temperatures. His intent, it seems, is to remind us of some of the beauties of the season.
He says, for example, that winter is “a beautiful season of intimacy and reflection (that) gives us the opportunity to stay inside and look inside.” He quotes individuals who appreciate winter. One person is the artist Andrew Wyeth who said, “I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape—the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”
I know what he means. When I gaze at the frozen world outside it is easy to believe that everything is dead. But experience tells me the trees are dormant, not dead. Their life-sustaining sap is simply being stored in their roots and will rise again in spring. And the bulbs buried beneath the snow will one day sprout green shoots that will break out into brightly colored tulips and daffodils and hyacinths. And all those insect eggs tucked beneath the bark of a tree or under the brown leaves on the forest floor—they too will come to life again. Winter for me has always been the season of hope. You have hope in your heart despite the cold, dark evidence outside.
Another beauty of winter is the gently falling snow. I like what Andrienne Ivey wrote about snow: “Everything is equal in snow: all trees, all lawns, all streets, all rooftops, all cars. Everything is white, white, white, as far as you can see.” The manicured lawns and the neglected lawns look the same after a snowfall. So do the new car and the old jalopy. “Everything looks clean and fresh and unmarred by time or use. Snow…is a great leveler.”
I also appreciate the quiet of a winter landscape. Snow muffles sound. The cars on the street make less noise. The windows are all shut so you hear less noise from the outside. Snow also mutes color in winter. There are no bright flowers to break the vast whiteness. That’s why, when color does chance by in winter, it stops us in our tracks. Is there anything more breathtaking than to spot a bright red cardinal flitting between the branches of a naked tree?
And finally, winter in the natural world teaches us how to live the winters of the spiritual world. This concept is expressed beautifully in the words of Sister Joan Chittister, OSB:
“Winter is a lesson about the fine art of loss and growth. Its lesson is clear: There is only one way out of struggle, and that is by going into the darkness, waiting for the light, and being open to new growth.”
What do you like or dislike about winter? Do you see any beauty in winter?
Our song today is “Winter Snow” written by Chris Tomlin and sung here by Audrey Assad. The song reminds us that in the Incarnation God came like a winter snow…
Is there anything you’d like to share about winter, about this reflection, or the song?
PS: Here are a few of my upcoming speaking engagements. For more information, check the websites of the retreat center or parish:
March 11, 2017 – St. Christopher Parish – Rocky River, OH
9:30 – 3:00: “The Spirituality of Hope”
March 25, 2017 – St. Cyril and Methodius Spiritual Center – Danville, PA
9:00 to noon: “Four Traits of a Healthy Spirituality: wonder, friendship, courage, hope”
April 7-9 – Franciscan Spiritual Center – Aston, PA
Weekend retreat: Fri. 7:00 pm to Sun. 11:00 am: “The Spirituality of Christian Hope”
April 29, 2017 – Norbertine Center for Spirituality – De Pere, Wisconsin
8:30 – noon: “How Do I Know If I’m on the Right Path Spiritually?
June 18-24, 2017 – St. Mary of the Pines – Chatawa, Mississippi
Week long retreat: “Holiness Is Wholeness”
July 7-14, 2017 – Villa Maria Del Mar – Santa Cruz, California
Week long retreat: “Everyday Epiphanies: Finding God in Every Nook and Cranny”
Happy New Year, Sr. Melannie!
So my wife and I spent New Year’s day on Cape Cod. After breakfast, we decided to walk along the seashore. Yes, it was cold and windy, to be sure, but at the same time just beautiful! The sea was more green than blue, the white caps seemed edgier, whiter, and crashier! The dunes to our left caught the morning sun in such a way so as to transform the whispy, dormant seagrass into a glorious golden brown. Others were walking, too, and we wished each other a Happy New Year. There were dogs and seagulls and the steady mantra of the waves. How good is that?!
A beautiful commentary on winter Sr. Melannie! I too live in a place where winter lasts a long time. It is good to see the beauty in its dormancy.
Happy 2017 and many winter blessings!
I love this reflection, the images, and the song! I lived most of my life in northern climates. Now, I live in Florida. I spent four days in Bozeman, Montana in mid-December and loved every minute of winter — the snow-covered mountains, the dry cold, the snow, and the indoor play with my grandnephew. I love winter in Florida, but it was nice to visit “real” winter. Blessings in the new year. Doris
I found your blog after reading the reflection you wrote “Angelic Visitors” in the publication of “Give Us This Day”. Divine Intervention?! I have always liked winter as a time of quiet and beauty especially after a snow storm. The quiet glistening white blanketed landscape which does make everything beautiful if even just for awhile is a great equalizer. Thank you for your work and I look forward to our travels together on this shared journey. Adrienne
I’m one of those who does NOT like winter. Never have. But I do appreciate the quiet introspection that is possible when forced to stay inside. I always like your reflections, this one makes me stop and think about the positives. I’ve decided to begin each day this year with a hopeful, positive quote or song. Thanks for inspiring me.
I’m with you Kathy!
I live in Canada…at least 6 months of Winter! I admit it
can be beautiful at times, but only if you don’t have to
go outside to walk on icy sidewalks, drive on icy roads
or dress in 14 layers of clothing (including the dog).
I lived in Texas for 3 years…do I ever miss it!
Happy New Year Sr. Melannie and followers! From God’s
Happy New Year, Sister Melannie!
I live in the North East and we have long cold winters. I have learned over time to always dress warmly when I go outside and to embrace the cold instead of fighting it. I look for as many opportunities as I can to be outside. The quietness of a winter walk is perfect time to spend time with our Lord.
Thank you for this positive reflection, Sister Melannie. I live in Canada and our winters are seemingly endless. Snow came to stay soon after mid-November and some of our worst snowfalls occur in March. I can tolerate snow (barely!) but freezing rain and icy walkways fill me with fear. I am grateful that as a senior, I am not compelled to go outdoors in bad weather. I’m sure that my friends tire of hearing me say, “I hate winter,” and next time the words are forming on the tip of my tongue I’ll think of the ‘winter is beautiful’ quotes you have included in this blog post. A cardinal is far more beautiful when seen on a bare branch against a snowy landscape than it is when it flies into a leafy tree in the summertime!
Happy New Year … and God bless!.
I loved this piece about winter. It gets a bad rap but there is so much beauty to behold in my neck of the woods in CT! Many of my friends and relatives plan to move to warmer climates as they approach retirement age but I will not be joining them. Well done sister!
Thank you, Sr Melannie, for this beautiful, even lyrical, tribute to one of my favourite seasons. At least it’s my favourite until about Valentine’s Day, when I start to hanker for a respite!
There’s nothing quite like the purity of new-fallen snow, untouched by footprints or tires or litter or what have you. There’s nothing quite like seeing snow blossoming on the branches of an old dead (or dormant!) tree.
On some recent nights, when the temperatures have been above 30 F but below 45, I’ve gone out onto the balcony in the dark, and said my rosary in the wonderfully invigorating chill. (OK, here I admit to being a little weird in my love for winter!)
I don’t like slipping on ice. I don’t like having to remove my shoes before going into my apartment (to avoid tracking in the sanded, salted snow). And I don’t like days of bitter, bitter cold when I’ve absentmindedly forgotten my gloves or hat!
But I’m with you, Sr Melannie, it is a very beautiful (and paradoxically fertile — spiritually & poetically speaking!) season.
I love the sunrises and sunsets in Winter…there are no leaves to obstruct the beautiful colors of the sky and the bare branches provide a wonderful frame (and complement) to the view.
What a pleasant surprise to open GIVE US THIS DAY on New Year’s Day and find your reflection on Angelic Visitors. It appears that your schedule for the first half of 2017 takes you all over the country. May each event bring blessings to you and those attending.
And as you know, I love winter, especially in the Snow Belt. It was the quiet that always enchanted me.
Winter has always been my favorite season. (My birthday is 12/8. Not exactly winter but very close.) It is a time when God’s creations truly depends on each other. Humans help birds and animals find food when the snow covers the ground and in return the creatures pick up our spirits when we find ourselves peering out windows into the bitter cold stillness.
I also love the fact that in the winter we see the trees and shrubs as they truly are. With no beautiful foliage to mask the scars and bumps to branches and trunks we can see the hardships they endured to survive and blossom into beautiful creations in spring, summer, and fall.
And there is always the peaceful stillness of a winter evening.
Thank you Sister for the beautiful reflection. God bless your 2017!
I live in Alabama and Florida now, but lived in Pennsylvania for 40 years. I’ve always loved the beauty of snow covered earth, especially when I didn’t have to drive or go anywhere in particular. When my 3 children were school age, snow days were my favorite, not only did they not have to go to school, but we got to enjoy the pleasures of playing in the snow. I would always make a pot of soup, bake bread and enjoy the opportunity to relax at home, with a fire blazing in the fireplace. Even shoveling snow was an opportunity for exercise. And who doesn’t love making snow angels? Thank you Sr. Melannie, lovely reflection.
Beautiful reflection … especially the comment about “Snow being the great leveler”. I enjoy all the seasons and I love a walk outside on a crisp winter day or night.
I want to share a Haiku that I wrote years ago that I reflects the season…
HAPPY BLACK DOG BOUNDS
THRU UNTRAMMELL’D SNOWY DRIFTS
HEEDLESS OF BRILLIANCE
Thank you and wishing you a Happy & Blessed New Year!