Winter is my favorite time of year. When people hear that, often they get up in arms saying things like how depressing and cold winter is, or even how ugly it can be. In part, I agree, it has its dull moments; however, I would like to offer a different perspective attached to a few pictures from late winter here in Idaho.
For some time, I have struggled against depression and anxiety. Different, of course, from each individual's experience, as we are all affected uniquely, but similar enough to understand each other. Winter is commonly the worst time of year for depression. Short, cold, gloomy days make it difficult to get the sunshine and fresh air needed to brighten the mood and rejuvenate the soul. Life, it seems, has gone dormant, slowed down by the burden of simply trying to survive. Once beautiful snow now becomes a bane to all those affected by it. Trails, roads, even entire areas of the state close down. The world has settled in for a long, harsh winter. So, what can you do?
Sunrise and sunset have long been my favorite times of day. Bolstered by cloudy and smoky days, these glorious events bathe the world in striking color and soft warmth that reminds us all balance exists. Night and day, cold and hot, salt and pepper, sweet and sour, you name it. opposites exist all around us. Winter and summer are contrasts of one another. If only to remind us how good summer feels, winter is there. But I believe even in the hardest times, light and truth can be found. An easily understood image of this is Ying Yang. Ask any survivalist and they'll admit even though winter is extremely harsh and difficult to survive in, if you know where to look, life still thrives. Time is still moving at the pace it has moved since man determined time to be. Growth is still occurring. The sun is still rising and setting. Look at the beauty of the snow once more, think of the life that one water molecule has had. How long has it been around? What could it tell you if it could speak to you as one man to another? Look to the aspen trees, their resilience and strength as they bide their time to blossom once more, look how they rest. Look to the pines, who dominate the difficult mountain terrain, pointing ever upward to their creator with the faith that warmth will come again. Even still, they shine, alive and green, through the coldest and darkest days. Watch the animals cling to life, what are they fighting for? Perhaps hope carries them forward?
Hope, a beautiful word to some, a hopeless word for others. Why does hope seem so intangible at times? When things are at their bleakest, hope is still there, shining as a beacon to the glorious metaphorical peaks of life rising before us. It has been said that rather than live life valley to valley, we ought to live peak to peak. Is that misplaced optimism? Misguided or naïve? Perhaps when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the only thing that keeps us going is the belief in and dream of that peaceful peak ahead, that awe-inspiring expanse and enlightening view that will lay before us and make the struggle worth it. We imagine ourselves already there, already basking in the rest. Might we consider that our planet, and the life on it aims to remind us that beauty rises from the ashes? That even after the darkest, coldest winter, the flowers return, hibernation ends, and life thrives once more? If that can be hope for you, then latch onto the idea that light is within reach, rest can be found, even if that means resting where you currently stand, to take up the fight once more and continue onward.
As March comes to a close in the next week, I reflect on this and many more challenging lessons I have learned this winter. Below are some pictures from a variety of spots including Ririe reservoir, the hill of Rexburg, Fall Creek Falls, and Swan Valley, among others. I hope they inspire you as they have me. Enjoy!!