I've always looked forward to winter and find myself getting gleeful, unlike most of my friends, at the first snowfall or brisk day. Perhaps it's because I grew up in rural Vermont or because I was born in January. Whatever the reason, I know winter is coming whether I like it or not, and so I choose to embrace it rather than “survive” it. If not, I’d have a miserable eight months! I’m not immune to frostbite, winter blues from dark days, or slipping on the ice. But I’m also not immune to sunburn, bug bites, and hot sleepless nights. Each season holds something to celebrate and something to endure.
While I was working in the office at Common Ground Center, I became very familiar with the cyclical ebb and flow throughout all four seasons. In spring, we enthusiastically scurry around turning on the water, dusting off cabins, setting up for programs, finding sports equipment, clearing trails…the list goes on. On the first warm day, we are all itching to get outside and get the ball rolling.
Then summer starts with our first programs in May and what fun it is! So many familiar faces! New people to greet and welcome! And all the orchestrated chaos that comes with each program—supplies and food and registration and scheduling. We jump right in.
Things start to wind down the fall. There are a few lingering programs that seem to take on a more relaxed pace. Many people are back in school or at work and the high energy of summer is gone. At the Annual Meeting and The Lost Arts Week, things move at a slower pace. I think we’re all getting mentally prepared for a quieter season.
The arrival of winter is just as reassuring as the return of spring. Winter is about hibernating, being a little more dormant. Nature is quiet and we should be too. The hectic, but joyful, particulars of summer are over, just as they are for every tree, flower, insect, and animal, and now is the time to reflect and turn inward. And we find ourselves doing the same in the CGC office. We finally have time to process the events of the summer. We rest,we return back to a 9 am – 5 pm schedule. We refocus and prepare for the following season at a slower and more thoughtful pace. Winter is not about killing time for what’s to come. The long winter is valued time.
Our 700 acres are just as beautiful in the winter as they are in any other season. And in winter, us office staffers get it to ourselves for a little while. Unlike spring, summer, and fall, which are full of blossoms, fruits, and colors, the only showy part of winter is water—coming to us in the form of snow, ice, rain, and the dreaded “wintry mix.” The word winter has roots in the old Germanic word meaning “time of water.” Water is a force of life and we see it in all its glory in the winter. Turning onto Tatro Road in January, I’ve often felt humbled by the beauty of a fresh blanket of snow or a hoarfrost clinging to branches and evergreen needles.
One of the best parts of winter is coming back inside. Coming inside in the summer can be stifling, metaphorically and physically. I hate returning to an office after lunch on a sunny patio or sleeping in a clammy bedroom. In winter, however, coming inside is a reward for being outside. There’s so much pleasure in simple things like a hot cup of soup or a mug of tea. At CGC, Jim encourages us to get outside a little everyday, especially in the winter. We go for a walk or a snowshoe or a cross-country ski. Then we come back in to our cozy offices and get back to work, refreshed. In the warmer months, staying inside at the computer can be torture! (One summer Kiesha, Jim, and I even held a rental meeting while wading in the deep hole in Lewis Creek.)
When the snow starts to melt, the days get longer, and temperature rises, I, of course, get giddy just as I do when winter approaches. Seasonal transitions are always magical. For me, though, there’s something special about winter. The solitude, the quiet. We can breathe a little softer and reflect inwards. Give pause and refocus. Embrace it wherever you are!