I absolutely love snow. And I can say this having experienced a South Dakota winter so you know it must be true. There the snow doesn’t recede during the coldest months, and you find yourself gliding through the previously charted paths, with walls that are three feet high framing the trail. The world is white and quiet and still with a big soft blanket putting everything to bed. But indoors a different picture emerges as fires crackle, cards are dealt, tea is sipped, and meals are shared.
In the still moonlit dawn outside my window this morning I could see that something was different. The dark depths of a nighttime forest floor were reflective and bright. There was more girth to the branches and boughs than I had remembered, and white hung to the sides of the elders wherever a nook could be found. It had snowed! And not a dusting like we are accustomed to in this region but a real snow, some few inches thick.
I imagine my life as four seasons that are not so much characterized by exact age ranges but instead by what is taking place within me, and how it shapes my experience of the world. In the winter of life there is a winding down of sorts, a time of reflection on what has been experienced and felt. There exists an understanding, a contentedness that arrives and implores a definitive peace. I recall “Maw”, my great grandmother, during the winter of her life, and how she seemed no more content with anything in the world than to have her family close by, happy and health (and full).
Snowed in at the Highlander Center during the Appfellows orientation our schedules are abolished and naps, conversation, and reading fill in the gaps. We are only just beginning our yearlong Appalachian Transition Fellowship and so are in the spring of this movement, sowing seeds, preparing the soil, and watching patiently as the world around us grows warmer. But we are doing ourselves no justice if we can’t relate to winter and use its power to create understanding within, introspectively, especially in regards to the previous year. It is one that brought dramatic change to our lives and will shape our futures in so many ways, not only with acceptance into this fellowship, but also in regards to the increasingly hostile world that is so antagonistic to our views and the work we do.
The power of weather to transform and influence continues to astound me. Try as we may to carry out our everyday lives as though we are separate from and immune to the reality of a bigger world, we are occasionally stopped and reminded otherwise. It humbles us and it connects us. And that is what the Highlander Center and this fellowship do as well. They pull us out of our little worlds and remind us we are connected and involved in something greater than ourselves.