The temperature did not rise as much as I was anticipating on the weekend, but nonetheless it felt as if freedom had returned – freedom from the oppressive overcast skies that have dominated our atmosphere lately. Regularly seeing the sun in all its brilliance is something I have truly come to take for granted. I really miss the wide-open prairie sky and the sun overhead when clouds or precipitation move in for a week or two. I am not sure how our oldest son manages on Vancouver Island, but he seems to have adjusted well to long gray winters and abundant rainfall that characterize a west-coast winter.
However, it may not be as bad as my imagination leads me to be since what could be worse than living through Regina’s cold and blustery winters? The answer is a winter in Winnipeg! From my personal experience, I certainly did not find Yukon winters to be any more severe than a typical prairie winter (excluding Maple Creek of course), but the season was a little longer.
The majesty of the northern lights was something that made many cold nights enjoyable. I remember one particular night in the early 1980s when the entire sky was alive with shimmering and moving luminescence. My wife-to-be, Angela, and her friend piled into our little Datsun truck and we drove outside the city of Whitehorse. We pulled over and got out to watch the incredible light show. Once we were away from all man-made light sources, the true beauty of the aurora borealis was breathtaking. We watched as shapes and colours intensified and waves of light raced from one horizon to the other. The movement was faster than anything I had ever seen. I don’t know how long we stood there in awe and simply looked at the heavens, but it was quite a while. The radio was on and at some point after my neck became sore an old-fashioned hoedown song began playing. We cranked up the radio, linked arms and danced in the –40 C night air as the best light show in the world was taking place overhead. It was fun, free (priceless) and we did not so much as ask for it. I have seen some fancy laser light shows at concerts, but the natural one we witnessed that night is the one that burns brightest in my memory.
What I am trying to point out is that we (at least I) get so busy doing things that seem important at the time that I sometimes forget to simply stop and really appreciate the world around me which includes my neighbours, friends and associates. The simple act of cleaning up leaves and fallen branches on the weekend brought that thought to mind when I saw an iris poking up in the garden. It had somehow taken root in the middle of Angela’s vegetable garden (presumably last fall) and was the first sign of new life that was visible. Our friendly neighourhood bunny had stretched out a couple of feet away from the shoot and was simultaneously enjoying a sun bath and a snooze. When the rabbit finally noticed the iris, it took a nibble and that’s all. The fresh greenery obviously did not provide the satisfaction the critter was anticipating. Fallen seeds from our Russian olive tree have been a staple for the animal all winter, along with a little lawn grass and dried flower leaves.
That little rabbit could easily be a meal for a predator such as a dog, but it has somehow evaded that fate and also survived a cold winter. The creature does not have a secondary occupation, employment insurance, social assistance or a financial plan. Yet it survives against the odds and will continue to do so unless it starts sampling my wife’s garden. The rabbit’s success hinges on being observant and keeping life simple. It doesn’t need the latest in fur coat fashions or require a smart phone to stay in touch with the animal world. The bunny does not worry about its appearance or what other creatures say about it in text messages, tweets or on Facebook. It watches carefully for enemies and doesn’t get stressed until a potentially life-threatening situation arises.
In comparison, we often get stressed about all types of situations that are insignificant or beyond our control, at least I tend to do that if I don’t keep my mind in check. A new season is at hand – a time of new growth – so let’s sow some new seeds in our lives and the lives of others. This spring, let’s plant peace, encouragement, goodwill, contentment and true happiness, and then share it with others. It is the time for new growth.