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GENERATIONS: Are you winterized? Try preparation and appreciation

Winterization is important and means different things to different people. But aside from basic preparations, we also need to “winterize” our state of mind with awareness, thankfulness and appreciation.

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The sun peeks through the clouds over the lake as we walk our dog Shadow.
Contributed / Sue Bruns
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Remember Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ants? How the grasshopper danced and sang all summer while the ants collected grain for winter?

When the grasshopper approached the ants in the winter and begged for something to eat, they asked him why he hadn’t gathered food in the summer.

He unapologetically admitted that he had spent his time singing. The ants chastised him and voiced a harsh lesson: if he was foolish enough to fritter away the summer, he would have to dance without supper in the winter.

We might wish the ending included an unselfish act by the ants and a sharing of their store, but Aesop ends the fable with a simple lesson: prepare.

Now that winter is here, two things can help us through this longest of seasons. Preparation is one thing. Appreciation is another.

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If you’ve prepared and winterized, you have fewer worries. Is your vehicle ready for winter? Do you have good winter tires? Have you put away autumn? Is the garden cleaned up, are the tools put away, the leaves mulched? Do the winter boots, jackets and snowsuits still fit the kids? Is the furnace in good working order? Is your fuel tank full?

Winterization is important and means different things to different people. But aside from basic preparations, we also need to “winterize” our state of mind with awareness, thankfulness and appreciation.

Thanksgiving, perfectly placed early in winter, can put us into the right mindset. My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving is non-denominational, unpretentious and far less commercialized than other holidays.

With no other purpose than to take time to give thanks for what we have, this holiday is best celebrated with family and friends, but it is also deeply personal and the gratitude we reflect on can carry us more comfortably through winter.

The changing of seasons from fall to winter is unlike other seasonal changes. Spring brings the greening of the land; summer, the blooming of flowers and ripening of fruits; and autumn ends the colorful show with an explosive finale of rusts, scarlets, ambers and golds.

But when November tugs stubborn leaves from the trees and snow covers the ground, monochromatic winter sets in with shades of gray, sunless days, ice-trapped lakes and long, dark nights.

If we combine preparation and appreciation, winter is not just tolerable, it can be four to five months of blessings.

With this season’s first snow, I found myself echoing many others with complaints of “I’m not ready for this!” I’m prepared; I’ve done all the end-of-fall tasks, put the patio furniture away, brought in a few plants to winter in the porch.

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Gary has made sure the truck was serviced, the plow is ready, the fuel tanks are filled. Winter wardrobe items are in the daily rotation. We’re ready. No “grasshoppering” this year.

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Walking in the first real snow of the season with Gary and Shadow.
Contributed / Sue Bruns

We walk Shadow through the woods after the first snow. (Shadow never complains about winter; it’s all the same to her — winter wardrobe, summer wardrobe, standard black fur coat.) We’re dressed for the walk — fleece under light-weight jackets, caps, mittens.

The wind has died down and a thin layer of snow rests like icing on the trees. I hadn’t wanted snow, but a few minutes into the walk, I stop and snap “first snow” pics — snow on the white pine, on the tenacious oak leaves clutching the trees, on the thin-branched undergrowth.

The sun tries to edge through thick clouds; the lake attempts to hold back the ice; the air is a haze of cool steam. Winter beauty.

What can I appreciate during these long cold months? Daily glimpses of winter after an extended warmer-than-average autumn, the warmth of my mukluks, the comfort of a warm fire after a walk. I’m thankful to live where I live, to have friends and family near and far, to be healthy and able to do the things I want and need to do, even shoveling snow.

After several consecutive days of relentless cloud cover interspersed with snow and wind, I miss the sun, but when it finally reappears, there is more to be thankful for. I’m grateful every time I navigate an icy walk without falling, every time I pull the covers up at night in a warm bed, every day I fail to experience hunger.

After more snow has fallen, we snowshoe through the woods, leaving our tracks and checking out other fresh prints — squirrels, birds, deer, dog, and something else, dog-like, but strangely spaced. I follow them across the driveway, into and out of the woods and across a clearing. They end at the start of a long, shallow, downhill “chute” in the snow. An otter! Finding the tracks conjures images of a sleek waddling body pushing off now and then for a long, smooth glide. The beauty of winter.

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Otter tracks are spotted in the fresh snow while out on a walk to enjoy the scenery.
Contributed / Sue Bruns

By the lake, resting like gray boulders on the edge of newly formed ice — more than a dozen lazy swans curl into themselves, now and then stretching long, graceful necks upward. They flap huge wings and honk like a sixth-grade brass section warming up. More winter beauty to appreciate.

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Each night, I let Shadow out before bedtime and take in several deep breaths of cool, clean air before I go to bed — grateful.

In the spring, I’ll be thankful when the snow melts, the ice recedes and the green reappears, but I can’t waste winter waiting for this to happen. There is far too much in this beautiful season to be thankful for.

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Otter tracks are spotted near our driveway in the freshly fallen snow.
Contributed / Sue Bruns

Related Topics: GENERATIONS
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