Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames
March 2001

I have spent a good many mornings driving my twenty minutes to work over the undulating hills that make up my local landscape. These hills have reminded me of the ocean, heaving gently up an down. In the summer the corn and soybeans blanket these hills covering them with green. In the fall they turn ripe and golden. I spot remnants of the prairie in the grass growing in the ditches and I like to image what the prairie must have looked like with the grasses turning gold and red with tinges of purple. In winter these hills are white on white when there’s snow. The drive has a sound track, I plug in John Denver and sing boldly and with conviction. I sing with wild abandon. One song I’m particularly fond of is a ballad for the seasons. It includes the lines:

And do you care what’s happening around you?
Do you know the changes when they come?
Can you see yourself reflected in seasons?
Can you understand the need to carry on.
Oh, I love the life within me, I feel apart of every thing around me
And though I love the life around me part of everything is here in me.
A part of every thing is here in me.

I have felt part of every thing here in me this season, it is not always pretty and certainly not always easy. We are reflected in the seasons.

Here we are an essentially hairless naked mammal that does not hibernate, daring to live in a climate of extremes. We clothe ourselves in layers of cotton and wool, in scarves, mittens, boots to protect ourselves from the cold dry winter. I welcome the opportunity to wear these things in November. I look forward to big warm sweatshirts and sweaters. I enjoy making soup and bread to keep my body warm and content, to do the same for my family. I light candles to warm and reassure on long winter nights. I enjoy the hibernation.

Now this clothing has become tiresome and my psyche tattered. I no longer relish the scent of candles, the soup brings me no comfort. Extra blankets on the bed seem only to entangle me, not to keep me snug. I want to throw off those necessary measures of protection from the harshness of winter. I don’t think I’m alone. I’ve seen the signs in others. 

My colleagues show a weariness in their eyes, they have an uncharacteristic irritability that is amplified on colder and cloudier days. The weariness and irritability become verbalized on those days when forecasts of snow become realized. 

In the elementary schools the children all have equally shabby snow pants and mittens, many mismatched or repaired with patches that have themselves become torn. The hallways of the elementary schools smell not so vaguely of clothing fibers with no hope of drying out between repeated contact with little kid sweat and melted snow. The snow boots are dull and many are missing their laces. These laceless children run around in constant danger of acquiring snow between their boot linings and their socks. Parents seem to lack the energy (or more likely the incentive) to replace them or perhaps they’re hoping for weather that will allow us to put the boots away likely never to fit the same child again. 

I do see signs of spring. I see them in the heaviness of the snow. When it comes now it is thick, not light and airy like January snow. The storms are not followed by subzero temperatures. When the snow does stop falling I watch the drifts sag and wrinkle under their own saturated weight. They are not long for this world. 

I see spring in the fickle character of the weather forecasts. It is as if nature can’t make up her mind. This last storm was predicted to produce one to four inches if it tracked south and seven to ten inches if it tracked north. My children suggest that winter an spring are fighting and up until recently winter (the supposed underdog) had been winning.

Spring has shown herself in the slight tinge of green at the periphery of the snow banks, the flocking of migrating cedar waxwings on the crab apple trees. They remain until all that was left of last summer’s stale and dried fruit is gone. The birds at our feeder have become varied and numerous. A pair of cardinals are now daily visitors.

The red-tailed hawk typifies Iowa to me. In the summer I love to watch as they lazily float above the fields, in the fall I’ve seen them swoop upon prey and rise again. On a very windy day last fall I was surprised to see one make an attempt at one of our chickens. The hens went running, clucking wildly for the shelter of the hen house. They refused to come out for the rest of the day. The hawk just missed her mark leaving feathers on the ground she took off empty handed, soaring up to hang her frustration on the wind. Now, in spring, I’ve seen a pair of hawks, perhaps one is the same hawk I saw last fall. They carry sticks, straw and branches. The nest is large and high. They feel the turning of the seasons and need to carry on.

Our baby chicks will arrive next week, we hope the snow drift between our house and the outbuilding we brood them in will be gone by then. We’ll get lambs soon. When the gardens are dry and unfrozen we’ll plant lettuce, radishes, spinach and larkspur. The time is coming, soon there will be much work to do. The work warms us too and there will be the need to remove the sweatshirts and sweaters.

I will turn my face to the warming sun, plant my seeds, for I feel the need to carry on.

A part of every thing is here in me.