A Year of Gifts
I read somewhere once that to survive, we humans need to change, just like the seasons. This is a powerful and accurate analogy, but when change happens too fast, sometimes all at once, it can weigh us down and make us feel overwhelmed.
Here, in North Dakota, we enjoy four distinct seasons, although the beauty of both fall and spring can feel too short. October often brings beautiful weather, but the past few days have been nothing short of ridiculous around here. I think Mother Nature might have gotten her months mixed up.
Normally, the days can still be warm, evenings cool, and the landscape can be vivid with color. On Wednesday, I took a walk in the park near my office and enjoyed our typical autumn splendor. Leaves on some of the trees were changing, offering warm golds and bright reds and oranges, providing a striking contrast to the green leaves remaining on other trees. The grass was a brilliant green yet, given how wet it’s been, the sky was a vivid blue, and some hearty flowers were still blooming.
Few leaves had fallen from the trees yet. A man was mowing the grass, and squirrels were scampering everywhere. I mean everywhere. One skipped right across the walking path in front of me, and when I looked around for more, I counted at least ten squirrels within thirty feet of where I walked, all digging and scurrying around, as if preparing. They didn’t need to hear the weather forecast to know change was in the air.
Tuesday was a balmy 70 degrees. It felt like summer. Wednesday, when I walked, was still a very pleasant, “fallish” day with a high of 66 degrees. But those squirrels were smart to prepare. By Thursday, the high was only 37 degrees, and predicted rain had arrived. We’ve had too much moisture lately. The ground is saturated. The river behind our house is well out of its banks (thank goodness for permanent dike protection), and the ditches in front are full of water. As the temperature continued its downward slide, rain turned first to ice, and then to snow. Overnight, winter arrived.
Three different seasons over three days: summer, fall, and winter.
I was home alone this weekend, enjoying lots of quality writing time. Most of it has been spent preparing my new holiday novel for publication, and the irony of an early snowstorm raging outside isn’t lost on me.
But there was a problem. Guess what happens when heavy, wet snow falls, and the leaves and bushes still have all their leaves? You guessed it. Those leaves catch the ice and snow, and the weight of it all creates tremendous stress. I hated the thought of broken limbs and damaged trees.
I decided to give Mother Nature a hand. Even she can be unprepared for change sometimes. Out I went, into the early evening dusk with my handy broom. When I think of fall, I think of cozy sweaters and cute boots. My reality was more like a dorky stocking hat, an old raincoat, and my trusty, baby blue water boots. There was nothing cute about my ensemble, and I know I looked slightly ridiculous, using my broom to knock as much of the weight off the trees and bushes as I could. All was quiet, except for the constant whoosh of the wind and the faintest of sounds made by the icy snow. I’m only 5’2” so higher limbs were out of luck, but I gave it my best shot.
It helped, but more snow fell overnight. When I looked out in the morning, I was worried I hadn’t been able to do enough to prevent damage. I was determined to do what I could, so out I went again with my trusty broom, not knowing how soon the temperature would rise above freezing again.
The picture on the left was taken Friday evening, the one on the right Saturday morning (same tree):
I couldn’t help but think, as I tried to remove as much of the heavy snow as I could, how this storm so closely mirrored life. When we have to endure too much change, too quickly, it can all feel overwhelming. We can feel weighed down by a sense of hopelessness. When this happens, we need to ask for help. There are people out there that can help with our burdens. Maybe it’s a family member who can help us out with childcare or taking care of an aging parent. Many people experience this overlapping of seasons. Or you may be experiencing lots of change in other parts of your life.
As I knocked the heavy snow from leaves and limbs, it was as if the trees sighed in relief, their branches lifting toward the sky when released from their burdens. While there was plenty I couldn’t reach with my broom, often the limbs closest to the ground bore the most weight. I had plenty of plops of snow hit me square in my face, and I hoped no one was watching, but I was able to make a difference.
The crack of splintering wood did vibrate through the air as I was beating off the snow. A tree down the street wasn’t able to withstand the weight.
The lilac bushes were easier to deal with, and quickly sprung back up.
Change is inevitable, and we should prepare for the unknown as best we can, but sometimes even the best planning won’t be enough. Usually, trees lose their leaves before the first heavy snowfall, and the precipitation falls harmlessly to the ground. But when things don’t happen in the expected order or too much happens at once, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.
And we have to trust that things will work out. The storm provided me with one more example of this.
A large tree did fall over in our backyard, unable to withstand the force of the wind and ice. But here’s the thing. We suspected the tree was rotten inside, and it needed to come out. The plan was to cut it down once the ground was frozen, carefully lowering it so it wouldn’t damage surrounding trees or structures. But without any human intervention at all, the storm laid that dead tree over perfectly, sending it backward, toward the river instead of the house, and it fell straight back, sparing the surrounding trees from any damage. I never even heard it fall (so I still don’t know the answer to the age-old question: if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it even make a sound?)
All that’s left is cutting up the wood and hauling it away (I won’t be doing that on my own!)
I do love the month of October. It is a month where we often have a foot in two different seasons, a transition month. It mirrors life, where things are constantly changing. We navigate change best when we prepare for it as much as we can, don’t fight the process, and either ask for or provide help to others as needed.
And since we are only a couple of weeks from Halloween, I couldn’t help but think of my favorite t-shirt I like to wear on the 31st of every October, while I was using my broom to beat the heavy snow off the trees and bushes outside. I guess my broom has many uses!
October comes with a ghost of change in the air. Watch for it, and stay warm. Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!