Bleak. Dreary. Winter conjures up images of grey skies, leafless trees, barren land, and snow packed ground, depleting the soil underneath of its ability to grow.
Chaos and trials in life are often analogized by winter’s storms. Rough emotions like depression, grief, sadness, and anxiety are depicted with images of winter’s barren, frozen or lifeless landscape.
Winter has such a negative connotation. But maybe it shouldn’t. When I think of winter, I think of something else altogether.
You see, I love to garden. And in my mind, winter is as necessary as any other season. Rain and storm clouds bring necessary life in their droplets, their saturation blessing the ground’s thirst. The natural winds provoke strength and endurance in young plants still learning to stand tall. Snow pack turns into streams and rivers, offering their abundance to all of nature.
Even barren branches and lifeless ground ring of purpose. It is a time of rest, when the pressure and hard work of production cease. During this time the trees recoup. The roots sink deeper, looking for moisture. It is unseen growth. Far from the vibrancy and spectacle of the above ground growth we often bask in.
And for a few months, those trees don’t find anything unnatural about doing nothing. Simply resting. Simply preparing. Simply being.
Winter is beautiful in its own right. It’s necessary in its own way. And it’s productive — just behind the scenes. Trappings detach and fall to the ground. Greenery dies back. The frenzy of developing and bearing stops. And inactivity and stillness take over.
In life we have seasons, too. Some where the outward growth and beauty in our lives is palpable and excessive. But others where the opposite is true. We have winters in life. The times when circumstances may be cold and feel lifeless. Times when the soul appears barren. When emotions are apathetic and worn out. Nothing seems to be working and discouragement seeps in.
But the winters in life have a purpose. They are times to retreat and cease from production. And in that quiet stillness, with barren branches extending out, we allow our roots to dig a little deeper. We allow ourselves to rest, reevaluate, redefine. We allow ourselves permission to suspend all the outward activity. We allow all the decoration to be stripped away, allow the wind and rain and snow to penetrate deeply and bring change from the inside out.
If you are in a winter season right now — if you feel lost, unproductive, barren and dry — it’s okay. The season is natural. And maybe even necessary. Instead of thinking of this season as a burden, think of it as preparation.
So you are ready when spring comes.