Entering my father’s house, I shed my coat, my scarf, my gloves, and step out of my boots. Then I turn the corner and see a chickadee through the window, cracking through sunflower seeds in zero degree weather. The chickadee is a familiar sight to me—but it remains a marvel. How can something so small survive out there?
For many of us, winter after the holiday season becomes something to get through. As the lights and decorations come down, the early arriving night presents us with long hours of lonely darkness. Snow and ice (and expectations of snow or ice) make commutes longer and more anxious. Lingering cold exhorts us to stay indoors with windows shut and barely holding drafts at bay.
Though perhaps not as pleasant as the spirituality of feasting that fills early winter, there is spirituality to this seasonal endurance. Even buffered as we are from winter’s power, winter—as beautiful as it can be—still visually remains a season of scarcity, barrenness, and mortality. It is a reminder that hard times simply arrive from outside our control, and they remain longer than we would prefer. Late winter is a lot like grief.
We dwell in it, and find ourselves cooped up with our belongings, our thoughts, and with each other. And so, late-winter becomes a time of cleaning out the house, having poignant conversations and introspection. Like grief.
It becomes an exercise in taking stock and evaluating priorities. Like grief.
It becomes a time of noticing and appreciation. Like grief.
So that I can be stopped short when I see again that, in the leafless, flowerless lilacs, the chickadees are thriving in the short hours of winter sun. They sing that spring will come again, like tiny, bold prophets. Like hope.
-Rev. Jeff Challberg, Director of Spiritual Health, Aurora on France
Aurora Senior Living is managed by Ebenezer, Minnesota’s largest senior living operator. Ebenezer is the senior housing division of Fairview Health Services and has 100 years of experience serving older adults.