Old man winter has given us quite the roller coaster ride this year to say the least! Temperatures plummeted to below zero for over a week, reaching a low of -30 several times, and then rose to the high 40’s in two days bringing thick fog. It hung like a heavy wet curtain over the sun and the spirit of folks. Freezing rain and a dusting of snow followed. The mercury once again is hovering below zero. Our coat hanger is laden with coats, thick and thin. Each morning the family navigates through mounts of weather ready footwear strewn near the door.
Old man winter is a slippery fellow. Can’t say that everyone is thrilled with the chill. We don’t have a choice except to weather the weather. We do have a choice as to the disposition in which we do it. The excerpt below from my book, Sweet Wisdoms, gives you my perspective on how I mentally shovel through the challenges of a Wisconsin winter.
We are experiencing below-zero temperatures with the wind chill here in Wisconsin. It’s freeze- your-nose-hairs-together and turn-your-nose whiskers-frosty kind of weather. As I make my morning round of chores, I’m constantly pulling my hat down and my long underwear up! You can feel the landscape’s bones on these sharp cold days. I delight in the simplicity of winter—stay warm. Bitter cruel cold, you can’t make me a bitter cruel cold person.
I’m a school bus driver. Our district has a “no eating “rule on the buses. Mostly, to protect those children with food allergies from a medical emergency while they are in transit. It also helps deters bees and wasps from coming onto the bus looking for sweet treats in the garbage.
On this particular day, a kindergartner tattled on a friend for eating candy on the bus. The candy was a large lollipop. I gently asked the little boy to either throw it away or put back in the wrapper for later. School buses now-a-days have high backed seats. You can’t see anything that is going on in the seats which makes enforcing the “no eating” policy extremely difficult. I’ve adapted a strategy of intentional listening (it sounds better than eavesdropping) on conversations that light up my misbehavior radar.
I can hear a quiet exchange of indiscernible words between the tattled on and the tattler. Within a few seconds, the tattler had another tale to tell, “He’s still eating his candy, Bus Driver!” I now resort to pleading. “Please, put the candy away. You know eating isn’t allowed on the bus”.
That’s when I hear the rule breaker speak up. In a loud, deliberate voice directed at the tattler he says, “For the last time, I’m not eating. I’m LICKING!”
I can’t help but bust into a big smile. Good one! I’m admiring his manipulation skills with a limited vocabulary while at the same time leaving the tattler tongue tied. Then the pure innocents of the situation revealed a profound truth.
We all know we should talk less and listen more. This experience taught me what we should be listening for—meaning. The meaning given to words is defined by the speaker. If we are not giving our complete attention to listening, talking is meaningless.
Soon nature will outfit my horses—Chief Lakota, Duchess and Jazz — with heavy, thick winter coats. During the winter I affectionately nickname them, Fluffy, Puffy and Stuffy, respectfully, of course. Jazz, my mini-Appaloosa, could actually keep his winter nickname all year long. It describes his soft, round physique perfectly! The biggest reason I overlook his aptitude to find mischief is his charming resemblance to a child’s plush stuffed animal. Jazz is stuffed with cuteness!
The change in my horses’ coats is slight at first. It comes one hair at a time, thickening and rising as daylight hours dwindle and the mercury slides further down the thermometer. Slow, gentle change from the inside out is a gift we, whether human being or animal, give ourselves.
Winter’s thick heavy thoughts are right around the corner, too. Like trapped air between hair strands, we insulate ourselves from cold, bitter experiences, their shiver inescapable in the wintry season of introspection. The winter of the mind exposes raw hurt feelings. Their pain can no longer be protected under a blanket of fear. Self -reflection bares our souls; the naked soul is truth’s mirror.
Come spring, the harshness of winter sheds. If we are willing to see ourselves clearly … work through all the stuff and fluff… we will enter the soul’s summer sleek and shiny.
When we open the hurt, the wounds close.
Let us feast on gratitude on this happy day of giving thanks!
“If the only prayer we ever say in our lives is “Thank you,” that will be enough.”
~ Meister Eckhart