Winter Dormancy

Spread around Tammie on the living room carpet were the things I’d given her for Christmas and the craft supplies she had brought home for us to use. She looked up from her packing to exclaim, “Mom, we never made the suncatchers!”

I sat down on the sofa and said with a chuckle, “We didn’t do a lot of things that we had planned.” My daughter and I shook our heads and grinned ruefully at each other. This was a conversation we’d had before.

The lights on the Christmas tree glowed softly and the tinsel sparkled. Sunshine slanted into the room through the large west window. I wistfully commented, “I thought that this year with you being home for a full week, we’d find the time to do them. You know this happens every time you we visit one another. We plan activities, but never have enough time to do them all.”

Putting the suncatchers on the coffee table, Tammie admitted, “I guess we just plan too many things. Will you work on the suncatchers by yourself? I’ve noticed that you haven’t done any crafts all fall.”

I retorted indignantly, “I haven’t done any craft work all fall because I was busy putting the garden to bed for the winter, washing windows, cleaning the basement and making elderberry jelly!” My voice softened as I added, “January, February and March are the main months I do crafts because my garden is resting and it’s cold outside.”  

I have come to look forward to the first few months of the year because I can spend hours each day working on jigsaw puzzles, doing crafts, reading books and trying different styles of writing without feeling guilty over leaving chores undone.

When grass, trees and flowers go dormant for the winter, they rest and have no outward appearance of even being alive. The dictionary defines the word dormant as resting – inactive – inoperative. Like many other words, it also has a second, deeper meaning. Dormant is also defined as a thing of potential or expectancy.

How perfect that second meaning is when you apply it to the seemingly dead winter trees, grass and flowers! After months of iron-gray branches, browned blades of grass and cold, lifeless dirt, suddenly and unexpectedly life springs forth!

The definition of potential and expectancy after winter dormancy can not only be applied towards plants and animals reacting to short days, cold winds and deep drifts of snow, but also describes to how people react to the same lack of stimuli.

Some plants die during the winter. For humans to not use the cold months for creativity is like having a part of ourselves die. I know that I do not always use my time wisely. Each year I resolve to do better. How will I do this year?

My daughter Tammie wisely advises me to immediately schedule visits when I say, “We should get together sometime.” In the same vein, instead of vaguely planning to do craft projects, I need to line up actual ideas and schedule them.

A long overdue writing project came to my attention recently. My sister’s daughter, Susan visited me. I knew she didn’t know much about our family history, so I began to tell her about her great, great grandmother, Franziska. How she left her native home in Eisenstein, Germany the summer in 1893 and boarded a ship to cross the ocean with her toddler and infant. She was with neighbors who were also immigrating to America, but great, great grandfather August wasn’t with her. He had gone ahead and was already in the new world.

As I told Susan about how Franziska never wrote anything down about her experiences, only sharing the information with my mother about how infant Elizabeth nearly died from motion sickness during the ocean crossing, I suddenly realized that only two of my sisters and I still knew this family history.

During winter dormancy this year, I plan to write down as many family stories as I can remember. The project gives a whole new meaning to potential and expectancy coming forth from a time of rest. By scheduling it, I will also be following Tammie’s directives for making concrete plans instead of vague ones. If you are wondering about the sun catchers, I am planning to get them done, too!




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