In my part of the world, winter can be a beast. It tends to arrive fierce and furious some time around November (sometimes earlier) and doesn't let up until...well, it's anyone's guess, really. There's a saying that March is "in like a lion, out like a lamb" but these past few years it has been more like "in like a lion, ooh yay it's a lamb, nope sorry, out like an even angrier lion, suckers!" Case in point: last week, the kids were outside in shorts and t-shirts. Yesterday, it snowed. Our front porch is home to both the snow shovel and the scooters, at the moment, prepared as we are for all possibilities.
Many people find winter a challenge. The shovelling, the scraping, the icy roads, the snowpants-and-mitts-and-scarves-and-hats-and-coats-and-losing-of-one's-mind, the freezing off of faces and exposed limbs - it's a little much. And for those who have depression or are otherwise facing a trying time in their lives, the darkness and the somewhat forced isolation, as we settle in for our yearly hibernation, can be particularly difficult. We pray for warm weather. We beg for it. We count down the days and search for signs of spring. Anything. Any sign at all to keep us going.
A funny thing happens in this part of the world as March comes along and we near the date of the "official start of spring" (a laughable concept, of course - as if Mother Nature checks the calendar! - but sometimes it's the only bit of hope we can cling to). We search for signs of spring, and divide into camps.
I've heard tell of those who mourn the loss of the bitter winds and the short days, real "winter lovers" which seems to me to be an oxymoron. I try not to associate with such people myself because WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT but apparently they exist. And they're not all skiers and snowboarders and other winter sport nut bars. It seems some people just like winter (I blame the parents). And I guess as the days grow longer and the beautiful warm sunshine reappears they shriek and shield their eyes and melt with the frost. I don't really know.
And then there are those who will take any little bit of hope they can get their hands on. "It's a balmy -15C, guys! My skin didn't immediately go numb with frostbite! Let's head to the beach!" These are the people dodging sleet in their sneakers and Bermuda shorts. You've seen them. They are another brand of nut bar but you've got to hand it to them: they are working with what they've got and making the best of it.
A slightly more reasonable version of these optimistic freaks are those who quite simply REACH THEIR LIMIT. At a certain point, despite the forecast, they decide that enough is enough and they banish their winter gear to the darkest recesses of their closets where they will remain untouched, dammit, for at least seven months no matter what happens because YOU WILL NOT CONTROL ME, WEATHER! They know the risk they're taking because as soon as they have taken their bold stand and traded their down coats for jean jackets OF COURSE Jack Frost will return. And be a total dick. But they just can't take one more minute.
In the final camp are those who remain cocooned in their crocheted infinity scarves long after winter's last dying breath. It's full-on flip-flop season and they're layered up and have brought along a fleece pullover "just in case". Because you never know. That's how winter gets you. You think it's all done and then BOOM. July. Snowstorm. You'll be wishing you packed your parka, then!
It seems to me that these attitudes reflect how we feel about hope.
For some, there's either no need for hope - they revel in the darkness - or hope is simply absent. There's no point in wishing for spring, because it feels as though spring will never come. There's no such thing as better days ahead.
For others, hope is abundant and reasons to keep going are easily found. The buds on the trees. The smile of a passing stranger. They're the tulip fighting its way through the soil on the promise of that one speck of light above.
Others take matters into their own hands. They don't wait for signs of spring. They decide that they will live as if it is spring, creating hope as they go, despite the flurries in the forecast.
And then there are those who let the fear and darkness block out the blinding light. Sunshine and opportunity can abound and they worry that at any moment it will all be lost. They remain frozen in their vigilance.
There are some who live their lives forever camped in one of these places but I think for most of us, we move between them. This is certainly the case for me, and I think that all of these perspectives can be right, at least for a time. It is natural to feel hopeless sometimes. It is okay to be in that darkness. And it makes sense to be scared. Do freak July snowstorms happen? They sure do. But I'd like to suggest that the supplies you need are close at hand and you've been through this before. You can trust that you will dig your way out with the shovels of tenacity and loving support and your own strength. You can let your guard down because this arsenal remains at the ready whenever you need it.
I've been searching for spring these past few months and for my part, today I'm going to put the snow shovel away. Enough is enough. I know that means I'm courting disaster. But I have faith that I'll make it through if it comes.
Today, I will put away the fears that have held me frozen.
Today, I will banish the doubts that hold me back.
Today, I will shed the layers that no longer keep me safe but, rather, block me from feeling the sun.
I will be the tulip.
I see the light.