The Last of Winter, the First of Spring

According to the calendar, spring has arrived, but in western South Dakota, we know better than to put too much store in that! For us, winter lingers sometimes into June, but we’ve begun to taste the springtime and I’m itching for those warmer temperatures, those springtime tasks, mud instead of ice, warm dirt, growing things, and baby animals!

Our relatively mild winter was punctuated with days and weeks of unseasonable warmth, and then punctuated again with unseasonable, bitter cold. And, as always, it starts to feel like it has always been winter, sometime around the middle of February. Those little tastes of springtime that tantalize and taunt us every year, tease us with the warmth that is so close, so close. And we are so ready for springtime, and we’re praying for rain, or a good spring snowstorm to bring some much-needed moisture to the parched landscape.

Of all the seasonal changes, perhaps the most bewildering and wonderful is the change from winter to spring, from the time of slumber and death to a time of waking and birth, from a time of fading to a time of renewal, from surviving to thriving, a time of preparation and planning to a time of action and initiation.

Everything that is easy to accomplish in warm weather is a challenge in the winter, especially when the temperatures plummet and snow and ice freeze us in. A five-minute outdoor task takes fifteen minutes to prepare for inside, and twenty minutes to warm back up after coming inside again. A snowstorm wreaks havoc on travel when you live 30 miles outside of town, or your driveway is a mile long. The ground is frozen solid, everything seems poised to break, the cold creeps into the house until the best way to get some heat going is by turning on the oven and opening the door. An unfortunate calf born in the middle of a frigid cold snap is a struggle to keep alive.

And through the sleepiness and struggle of winter, we dream of spring. We dream of spring, and begin preparing. Gardens are planned, seeds are ordered, harvests are imagined, and a million other projects start forming in the mind, ready to send into action when the cold snap breaks, or when the snow is gone, or when the ground melts. Ranchers watch their cows get heavier and heavier, and pray for a good calving season.

And then at last, spring arrives. We see it on the calendar, and we see a 10 days at time of forecasts for temperatures in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. We see the first shoots of green grass. We feel the first raindrops. We feel the first truly warm breezes and smell the earth warming up. Rock-hard, icy ground turns into a mud slick, and how wonderful the mud smells! The multiple layers of jackets and sweaters diminish to the ease of a shirt and light jacket, stocking caps are replaced with ball caps, and I always cherish the first day I can wear a tank top and sandals!

The garden beds begin to soften under their preparatory layer of plastic. The first load of laundry is hung on the clothesline outside. The first meadowlarks appear. Seeds are started. Those calves that were unlucky enough to be born into the cold snap are now a month old, frisky, and thriving.

What a transformation!

In the winter, we are forced to slow down. It is a sabbath of seasons, in a sense. We are forced to slow down from the seemingly self-sufficient business of the rest of the year and only do those things that are necessary, limited by the cold, the frozen ground, the shorter days. It is an exercise in trusting God for the day-to-day necessities in the day-to-day struggles. And then in the springtime, God turns that trust into joyful action.

Happy springtime, friends! And pray for rain!

Just a Reminder…

Just a reminder that spring IS on its way, for everyone despairing that we’ll ever see warm weather or the sun again.
IMG_8378eThese pasques were found in the rain on Resurrection Sunday, on the very back part of our property that somehow I’d never hiked to before! Pasques do well in areas that were recently disturbed, such as land that has been burned or logged, and these were true to form.

What a spring we’ve had!

 

Sunburn and Bliss

Although I kept a great habit of hiking this winter, and getting outdoors quite a bit regardless of the temp, something magical happens when the warmth arrives. The line between inside and outside becomes deliciously blurred. I can eat outside, sleep outside, and stay outside as long as I wish to. The wind no longer bites, the cold no longer burns, and the sun no longer sets at 4pm. There is a gentleness in the wind, even when it is blowing mightily. The sun-warmed, pine-covered slopes are sweet with their resiny perfume, in a way that evokes memories and impressions of my childhood.

The frogs are singing in the dam, we’ve enjoyed our first thunderstorm, and I’ve fallen asleep to the sound of rain on our roof. I’ve woken up with sore muscles from strenuous hikes, sore shoulders that got a little too much sun, and taped blisters on my feet. I’ve hung clothes on the line to dry, and hammocked under the stars. Spring is finally here.2019-04-23_06-41-05After wintertime and never venturing out with fewer than what seems like a hundred layers, it is delicious to wear a tanktop and feel the breeze and sun on my arms, and get a little sunkissed, or even a little toasted. The days are longer, the nights are warmer, and it becomes more of a struggle to stay indoors.

But summer is almost here! And what means work at the greenhouse will start, teaching will be done for the season, and my life will be lived more and more outside. Which is what I love.

So I nurse my sunburns and sore muscles and wind burnt face as glorious symptoms of bliss.

Parable in a Pasque Flower

Pasque flowers appear after the bitterness of winter, often before winter has fully wasted itself out in storms and cold and darkness. They are a sign, a beacon of hope. Asleep in the ground for the months of winter’s cold, at the appropriate time they fight their way to life, seemingly delicate and vulnerable. But what strength is seen in the first of spring’s flowers! Tiny things that should be crushed under what remains of winter, they prevail. Against all odds, they spring up here and there, bathing hillsides in the glory of springtime. They are the first glimmer of hope that winter won’t last forever, and that spring will truly come. There is life in the dead ground. There is warmth, and light, and growth.
IMG_8239eFirst there is one, then a couple, then dozens, then they’re everywhere. Spring has come. Winter is defeated.

How appropriate that they bloom at Easter time, hence the name “pasque,” having to do with the time of Passover, the time of deliverance. The “paschal lamb” was the sacrificial lamb of Passover, ultimately fulfilled in Christ, our once-for-all-time Paschal Lamb.

At Easter, we celebrate hope, the hope and certainty that our Salvation, our deliverance, is secure, through the paschal sacrifice of our Lamb of God, to redeem His people from their sins. The hope began with one man, amidst a storm of controversy and opposition, against which a mere man never could have prevailed. But the God-Man could. His ministry turned into a couple, then a dozen, then hundreds, confounding the religious elite of the day who did everything they could to crush His ministry. It seemed as if they’d succeeded, that gruesome day when they nailed Christ to the cross of crucifixion, a horrific instrument of torture. Christ, the God of the Universe, was slaughtered, brutally, willingly, voluntarily, in order to satisfy the Plan of eternity to save, to give hope, to change hearts, to reconcile sinners to God.

“There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain.”
IMG_8386eFor two dark days, His broken body was dead, buried, but on the morning of the third day, Christ defeated death. Against all human odds or laws of science, Christ broke the chains of death and returned in a glorified human body. Death was defeated.

“Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!”

What began with one man has blossomed into millions, millions of tiny beacons of hope that light the darkness of this world, that give us hope that the darkness won’t last forever, that the winter of our souls can become springtime, that death can give way to life, that goodness can come from decay. No other religion or person or movement has ever rocked world history like Christianity, and no other worldview can boast the lives radically changed for the better, hatreds healed, hearts transformed. In spite of all opposition, Christianity has flourished for over two millennia. And where it is hardest pressed, there it blossoms the most gloriously. Each life changed by Christ is a testament to the truth of the Gospel, the hope that we have to be reconciled to our Heavenly Father, to have our sins forgiven, to have our hearts radically changed. We aren’t doomed to ourselves and our sins forever. There is hope.
IMG_8255eRemember that, when you see these first flowers of spring. They are a mini parable of how God works and has worked to bring about Salvation, to defeat death, to bring life and hope and peace and reconciliation.

 

Spring Again

Another spring is here – for real, this time. We may get some more snow (likely, actually), but when the pasques are out, spring is really, really here.
IMG_8177eI found these on a little trail in Rapid City just before a piano lesson last week. What a lovely find! There are a few other wildflowers I really get excited about, but pasques are particularly special. They mark the end of a long winter, and the beginning of beautiful weather and the promise of more living, blooming things, and of vivid, rambunctious color coming back to the landscape!

 

Rain and High Water

High water for us means that Battle Creek is actually flowing across the southern end of our property, and when it does, we’ve had a lot of rain! God blessed us with more than 3 inches of moisture in the last couple of weeks, which sure gave every growing thing a needed boost! There is a favorite spot along Battle Creek, fondly referenced by a small cave we found which we dubbed “the Mountain Lion Cave,” where the creekbed winds its way through a ravine, with high canyon sides bordering the creek from one side or the other, and clear green meadows opposite, scattered with oak trees and adorned with dame’s rocket. Even when the creek is dry in that stretch, it is a favorite place to explore and rock hound and scramble, but with water running the fun level goes up drastically. We took the dogs down there so they could run and play in the water. I love watching delight play out on an animal’s face. Those two goofy dogs loved the water! Sarah did, too, and went wading in the creek with the crazy canines. I don’t think our pups wanted to leave! Poor Trixie is such a snow dog, the summer heat really gets to her. She becomes a water dog out of necessity!
IMG_7172eIMG_7195eIMG_7180eRain – what a blessing.