For many of us, winter is a time of shutting in and shutting down. Of enjoying only those things that can be held within the comfort of our walls, while surrounded by heat and a golden tungsten (or, in many cases these days, LED) glow.
But if we’re lucky (and already, so soon into 2021, we have been), nature reminds us that even in the depth of winter, there is beauty to be explored. To be shivered through, drawn close with each crisp, stingingly cold breath, and exhaled into the soft flaking frost that trembles free of white laden branches as the wind whispers by.
Last night, driving from Lake Geneva to Harvard, I knew I would awaken to hoarfrost. And this morning did not disappoint (although, technically, it seems we had Rime Ice instead). As I made my way back home to Lake Geneva, a picturesque storybook turned page after page of lovely white before me. The early morning mist moved, animal-like, twisting away from the road with each mile, ever-present, just beyond the reach of my fog lights. And when the land gave way to water, the sky was nearly inseparable from Geneva Lake’s grey-green waves.
On a personal mission to get back to walking 3+ miles a day, I swung home, picked up my camera and drone, and made my way to Bigfoot State Park, just opposite the shores of Geneva Lake, and took to the trails in search of wonder — which was an easy trailmate, dancing around every corner, clinging to every exposed branch and bridge along the way.
It’s funny how much detail can be found when the world turns monochrome. When white layers gently upon white, and shadows whisper secrets of detail and depth.
When the world stops, mid snow or mid foggy frost, the waiting is palpable. Even the faintest hint of color suggests quiet life suspended in time… memories of moments past, or gateways into discoveries not yet made. Everything seems frozen, far beyond the literal, waiting for some hidden potential to unfold.
Many people have shared with me that when walking in the winter they tend to look for tracks. To search out the wanderers of the wilderness by stumbling upon what hints they’ve left behind. And while I can certainly appreciate the joys of tracing the path of a deer, or raccoon, the random scamper of a rabbit, or wondering just how cats walk in such perfectly straight lines (as if they only have two paws, instead of four) — truthfully, when walking alone in the snow, I’m not looking with my eyes for any tangible trace of what has been – but feeling something whisper from my heart. A catch of thread that tugs gently at my insides and leads me forth to places and dreams I’ve not yet dreamt. I listen to the trees sway and sigh and am reminded that in-between breathing, before the world moves, there is a stillness that encompasses everything.
There, just beyond what you thought you saw…
The light, the shadow, the half light — all showing you things you never realized you’ve already learned.
We need mornings like these. Mornings that remind us we’re small. Mornings that remind us we too could cherish the safe cover of a buckthorn grove in the midst of a freezing winter night. Mornings that remind us that for all the malls, attractions, and supermarkets we can build, nothing will compare to the exquisite, simple bounty of the land we’re blessed with. The land we once survived solely upon.
And you can say what you want about Florida, or the Bahamas (and trust me, I love a good beach), but there will always be so much love in my heart for the hauntingly magical beauty of the seasons of the midwest.
Winter sings to us. It begs us to slow down, to embrace the in-between moments. To take pause and to take stock.
It is a season of asking. Asking what we are reaching for, asking what we’ve done to prepare, and how we can do a better job of preparing next time. It asks us to know ourselves — to live quietly with ourselves and to discover whether we can do so with satisfaction, or contentment with who we’ve become.
In many ways, much of 2020 was an extended winter, and we’ve had much more asking already than we’ve wanted. And so, the question becomes, having come face to face with ourselves already, what possibilities lie ahead?
Where will the next months and years lead? What will we choose to cherish and build up, what will we let decompose, and what will we nurture for the coming spring?
Here, in little Lake Geneva, nestled in the midst of the Midwest, the winter brings quiet, and a time of peaceful renewal. Our tourist town runs on limited hours, our vendors recharge, and our parking meters give us a much-appreciated reprieve. The lake regenerates, the shores whisper legends of times long ago when native peoples lived in harmony with the land, and when the mist falls heavy around the bays and the narrows, you can almost imagine a simpler life, for better or for worse.
And if you’re like me, you cherish it. Every single quiet moment of it. Because there’s nothing quite like Wisconsin in the winter time.
As always, thanks for stopping by. Wishing you the very best in 2021 — may we all evolve this year in the most beautiful of ways!
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