Sometimes in the thick of winter, it is hard to remember spring will come. I did not truly understand the redemption spring symbolized until moving to Alaska. In this state, winter means darkness and hibernation. The plants feel winter approaching and shed their leaves and turn brown. All signs of plant life recede and the ground looks dead. As the sunlight returns and the snow melts, the earth looks hopeless. The ground is flooded, littered, and barren. How can life possibly emerge from this? Then, it does. From the barren ground, the sprouts emerge. Over just a few weeks, the world that looked so brown and dead is brought to life. The plants that looked hopeless burst into life all at once.
Your Spring Will Come
The symbolism of spring is a poignant reminder that life is not made of just winters. It is also made of springs, summers, and autumns. Maybe you’re in the midst of a winter. Health, family, or financial setbacks take their toll. They dim the sun and plunge us into a season of winter. Some winters are darker than others. Sometimes, in the midst of the darkness, we feel like spring couldn’t possibly be the next season. Life can’t emerge from such darkness, we think.
Remember, friends, that even in the darkest winters of your life, spring is just around the corner. No matter how hopeless your winter seems, your spring will come. No matter how barren or dead your life feels, your spring will come. No matter how dark the days have gotten, your spring will come.
Change Happens Incrementally
Here in Anchorage, at the winter solstice, we only have about 5 hours of total sunlight. Each day leading up to the solstice, we lose about five more minutes of light and the darkness closes in. But after the solstice, the change goes the other way. Every single day we gain five minute of light. Over a week, that adds up to 35 more minutes of light! Five minutes isn’t a noticeable difference, but 35 is.
Sometimes, we don’t notice those five minutes of light we’re gaining. We focus on the overwhelming darkness. Spring will come, but it will sneak in slowly at first. Focus on those five minutes. What is one single thing that is better today than yesterday?
After four months of incremental change, we finally start to realize it’s happened. By May, the snow is finally gone, but because we’ve been so focused on the ground, we haven’t noticed that we now have almost 24 hours of sunshine. Sometimes, if you choose to look up instead of down, you’ll realize the sun is coming back. The ground may still appear dead and littered, but the sun is returning.
Then, all at once, the buds come. They’re tiny. They’re unassuming. But they sprout into life. They cover the dead ground with green and turn the trees from brown twigs to branches full of leaves.
Often, we don’t realize spring will come until it’s here. And we wonder how we didn’t see it coming.
Can You Expedite Spring?
The great Alaskan question is whether you are a person that lets the snow melt on its own or whether you actively remove it. There are “Snow dumps” around town where you can have your snowpiles trucked off and out of sight. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m nuts, but I’m the one out there in my driveway breaking up my ice chunks and shoveling snow onto my pavement to help it melt faster.
Sometimes, my only way to fight the winter is to do what I can. My efforts won’t make the sunlight come faster or the buds grow earlier, but it does give me an extra 1-2 weeks of snow-free life. In the winters of your life, sitting back and letting spring come is okay. But it’s also okay to fight. You won’t be able to change when the sun comes or life reappears, but you may be able to give yourself an extra few weeks of hope. Sometimes doing something (anything!) helps take away the hopelessness and powerlessness you feel.
Spring is Worth It
Every spring, as life is renewed in Alaska, I can’t believe how crazy I was to think it would never come. With 24-hour sunlight, rivers full of salmon, hikes full of eagles, bays full of whales, and gardens full of rhubarb and raspberries, summer is glorious. I know winter will come again, but life is full of seasons, and without winter, we wouldn’t appreciate spring and summer. The best thing to do during summer is fill up on sunshine and prepare for the next winter because just as spring will come after winter, winter will come after autumn. That’s just how life goes.