October’s vibrant colors have given way to November’s somber grays and browns and we’ve greeted the morning once or twice to find snow dusting the grass like icing sugar. My brother, Dave, has reluctantly parked his motorcycle for another year and we are all beginning to think of the coming of winter’s short days and shoveling driveways. Until recently Dave has looked on winter as a time to hunker down and wait with patient endurance for spring to arrive so he could start living again. Last year he decided on a radical change of attitude. Instead of hibernating, he would embrace the season.
He bought himself a pair of snowshoes and a toboggan and began to accumulate some warm winter gear. He made a plan to travel to Northern Ontario where he would undertake a 10 kilometer hike across the ice of the North Channel to a tiny island in Lake Huron. There he would build himself some sort of shelter in the snow and camp for a couple of nights before making his way back. The trip took considerable planning as he tried to anticipate the problems he might face and sort out the minimum of what he would need to survive. He really didn’t want to pull any more weight than absolutely necessary. Finally, he came to our place to practice tramping around the yard in his new snowshoes pulling the loaded toboggan on the end of a rope that he tied to a belt around his waist. He thought he ought to be able to do 10 kilometers even if he’d never done it before.
The date of his departure arrived and it looked like the weather would be cold and fine for the weekend. We thought of him often during the course of those next few days, wondering how he was getting along and waiting eagerly to hear all about it. The trip went well all things considered. He managed the trek across the ice safely in spite of climbing over an ice ridge to set his boot down in water on the other side. A headlong sprint to solid footing saved him from a soaking. Unfortunately, the toboggan trailing on the end of the rope behind him got caught on the ridge and he was yanked to a sudden stop that landed him flat on his keester. He picked himself up and once he’d stopped hyperventilating, he managed to work the toboggan free. The rest of the crossing was accomplished without a hitch. Once he reached the island he searched out a flat spot in front of a rock face that would allow him to build a shelter and have a fire inside. There was plenty of dead wood around for fuel and he managed to gather enough to get him through that first night. He discovered just how much work it took to survive in the wilderness in winter. Every waking moment was devoted to the endeavor. He made improvements to his camp the next day and was able to pass the second night in almost comfort. At the end of his stay he left his isolated hideaway with the satisfaction of knowing that he’d achieved all he set out to do. In a small way he’d pitted himself against nature and won. There was nothing easy or fun about it but he came home feeling immensely pleased with himself. He could say without reservation that it was good.
There is no doubt that some seasons are tougher than others. I can hunker down and wait for better days before I start living again or I can decide, like Dave, to embrace each season as it comes. Embracing the seasons of my life will look different for me than it will for someone else. We’re all individuals after all. Perhaps this winter I’ll practice by trying something new of my own. I may even discover something about myself in the process. Whether it turns out to be fun or just plain difficult I’ll be able to say without reservation that it was good.