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Not Every Winter

January 25, 2022

Nicole Howe

“Not every winter is an undoing.”
My friend and mentor and wise sage, Lancia Smith, said these words to me in the middle of winter. Not an actual winter. A soul winter. A place in my heart that felt chilled and achy and wrapped with loneliness.
The problem with this soul winter is that it came to the place I had cultivated and tended and tilled. The place where seeds were planted, where roots were reaching, where baby sprouts had been stretching and waking. It’s the place where I had expected, after ALL. THAT. WORK. to see flowers and flourishing. Blooms of life and beauty.
And they were there, for a season. But now? Clouds were moving in and shadows were creeping across the landscape. All of it uninvited and unexpected. What is this? It was violating and unfair. All that work, threatened by a volatile and unrelenting chill. Why am I here again? How can the landscape shift so suddenly? It was all coming undone.
She reminded me, this wise sage, that life is cyclical. Just like the seasons.
And that means winter will come to places where there was life and flourishing. I realize, as she says the words, that I know this.
But I never agreed to it. I wanted to believe that healed places could be perpetual summers. That somehow if the trees got strong enough, they could hold back the cold. That winter only came to the places left untouched and uncultivated and untended. But the garden places? No, not here. We’ve already done the work here.
It is a terrible thing to see winter descend onto a flourishing place. To see blooms and leaves and life cracking and breaking and
To see time turning backward, outpacing you. Your counter-punches, futile. Holes and empty places popping up everywhere.
It is a HUMBLING thing to be overtaken by winter.
But not every winter is an undoing.
My friend reminded me that gardens know how to survive winters. That life continues to grow under the blankets of snow. That work is happening and sprouts are still stretching and acorns are still turning into oaks even in and through winter seasons. Every summer doesn’t see life starting over.
Every winter doesn’t wipe out the work of summer.
Growth happens in every season. The work continues and always continues. Winter has a part to play in healing, too.
I realize, as she says the words, that I know this, too.
I must make peace with it.
And here I am today. Slowly making peace with uninvited winters. Learning to accept that the cold still comes back around to flourishing places. Maybe there’s an invitation for roots to grow a little deeper. Familiar lessons, pressed more firmly into the halls of memory. More grounded. More secure. Maybe it’s simply to teach me that my garden is stronger than I thought. Maybe I don’t have to be so afraid. Maybe I will be surprised by what emerges in the spring. Maybe the garden will be better for it. I don’t know yet.
But I do know…I am learning to know…that not every winter is an undoing.

The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and used with permission for Cultivating.

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  1. Lorraine McGuinness says:

    Nicole, my heart feels for you. This is a hard season to be in, feeling violated where you were tending and caring. Thank you for the patience with which you explore, with words that also help those who read, to open our eyes to what winter brings.

  2. Cassie says:

    A thousand yeses to this in a thousand ways. Thank you for capturing it beautifully.

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