Signs of Life

We had an unusually fierce winter in New England this year. Record cold. Record snow. Howling winds. It was so bitterly cold and nasty that it wore us down. Ate into our souls. It felt like the Land of Narnia when the wicked witch ruled the land.

(c) Thinkstock

(c) Thinkstock

As Mr. Tumnus said to Lucy, “It's always winter and never Christmas.”

When one cold and snowy day turned into another, it felt as though spring would never some. But come it did. At least on the calendar. The first day of spring was another cold, snowy day. The snow pile grew higher. We looked at the calendar and groaned. It felt as though it would never end.

Have you ever felt winter in your soul? Not from the weather, but from life? That’s how I felt when my husband died. Like it was always winter and never Christmas. The cold and wind of grief burrowed deep into my soul. It felt as though it had always been thus, and like it would never end. Just like the New England winter of 2015. I knew in my head that the winter of my soul would eventually give way to spring, but it didn't feel that way. I couldn't see how and I didn't know when.

Winter does eventually give way to spring. And it has finally happened in New England. It has begun to warm up, and the snow is finally melted. We've had a few beautiful days. This past weekend was glorious. The sun shined brightly, and the temperature felt like a typical spring day. Everyone emerged from hibernation and went outside. There was a different spirit in the air. People out with their dogs, talking with neighbors. Lingering because they weren't in a rush to get out of the cold and wind. Not encumbered by heavy coats, boots, hats, scarves, or gloves.

It was so beautiful outside that I went out to join them. I put on my jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers, and stepped out the door. And the first thing I did was walk around the yard and look for . . .signs of life.

I didn't see too many. The yard had been ravaged by the harsh weather. And because of the delayed spring, most everything still looked dead. No shoots on the rose bushes, the hostas not poking through the soil. No daffodils. Mostly brown stalks from last year's growth.

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

But eventually, on the sunny side of the house, in a protected spot, I spotted signs of life. The first iris and hyacinths poking through the surface. Only an inch or two above the soil line, but signs of life nonetheless. Green. Alive. Hopeful. A promise of what is to come.

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

I had to look hard to see those signs of life. In the vast expanse of my yard, there were only a few small glimpses of what is to come. If I didn't look closely, I would have missed them. But they were there. Waiting for me to discover them.

The same is true when we experience winter in our soul. At some point we put on our shoes. We take a small tentative step outside of our frozen fortress. We see that the snow has melted. We survey the barren landscape, littered with sticks, dead leaves, and brown plant stalks.

And if we are really looking, we also see the blue sky, feel the warm air, smell the scent of new, and see the tender shoots of new life. Signs of hope. Signs of the spring that is coming if only we embrace it.

In Nature, spring always follows winter, and basically on schedule. But in our lives, we can continue to live in our winter-state unless we choose to embrace spring. We have to let the protective ice around our hearts melt. We have to put on our shoes. Step outside into the warm sunlight, even as we squint at its brightness. See the tender shoots of new life and nurture them. Trim the old dead stalks, loosen the dirt, and watch life unfold.

How about you? Have you been experiencing winter in your life? Is it time for spring? Will you put on your shoes, go outside, and look for signs of life? They are there underneath the dead stalks of your old winter life. If you'd like to share what you are doing to encourage new life, please leave a comment below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Kathleen, thank you for this very inspiring post. This past year for me has felt like winter and spring have been a few months, apart. Coming and going again and again. Part of that “getting your shoes on and walking outside” has to do with evaluating. I have evaluated where I am and why. I started to do some “spring cleaning myself” by letting go of costly subscriptions and unsubscribing from emails I never read. Sometimes the signs of life are buried in these things that need to be cleared away. Great words. Thanks. May our spring lead to a great summer of growth and a fall of a bountiful harvest and a winter of rest!

    • Funny you mention unsubscribing, Edwin. I did that sometime last summer. It was the best thing I could have done. Indeed, sometimes the signs of life ARE buried in things that need clearing out. Here’s to growth and a harvest in our lives.