I couldn't help but hear this song as I drove home from work this morning in our first occurrence of wintery weather this season: rain mixed with snow, brought by a cold, sharp wind that cuts through your clothes and down to the bone like an executioner's axe. Now, I realize that here in Alabama, we are by no means yet in midwinter. Some might even argue as to whether or not Alabama has a true winter at all. I feel confident in saying that most of us who live here are adamant that we do indeed, albeit not the winter of those poor souls up north in places like Minnesota or the like. I'm not entirely sure how one keeps one's sanity when living in a climate that is so bitterly cold for so much of the year. It's always been my personal theory that this is the reason Southerners are considered to be inherently friendlier than Northerners: a friendlier climate. Be that as it may, for many, the season of winter brings with it a veil of sadness, as though they, like the trees, had been stripped of their leaves, only to be left transparent and exposed to the world. The nights grow long and cold. Death and darkness win over life and light. Our technicolor world reverts to black and white, leaving precious splashes of green in the remaining evergreen cedars, pines, and holly with its blood-red berries. Moreover, the joys of the accompanying holiday season are often dampened by the absence of friends and family whose presence once played a vital role in our lives and in the carrying out of our traditions. Even as we younger generations step up to fill the gaps, the gaps never entirely disappear for us.
While it is easy to succumb to these waves of coldness, darkness, and sentimentality, one must not allow oneself to do so. Rather, we should attempt to be like the tree mentioned above; not in transparency and starkness, but in strength of heart and endurance. Leaves may fall, coldness may surround, and at times branches may even break, but in the Spring comes new life, and with it new leaves and new branches. These months of darkness and cold that force us into our homes create an opportune time in which we might venture deeper into ourselves for introspection. This holiday season, when our souls are stirred by a cold wind with the memories of figurative leaves and branches lost, rather than anguish over their absence, cherish the beauty they provided to us and the world during the spring, summer, and especially autumn of their lives. Lastly, remember that while we are each our own trunk, we are at the same time the leaves and branches of those around us, each appearing in varying seasons of splendor to one another. Do not allow the winter of Earth to become the winter of your spirit.