Gathering Friends for The Long Winter

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

– Knowles Shaw, 1874

The Little House series started it all: my love of books and the simple-good life. That’s what this blog is about.

When I was seven, my mom bought me the whole box set, the ones with the yellow covers illustrated by Garth Williams. The books sat on my shelf for a few years until I grew into them and read all nine in a row. From that point on, my heart belonged to Half Pint, Pa and his fiddle, Jack the brindle bull dog, and all things Almanzo. I loved those home-cooking, churchgoing, hardworking, disaster-surviving, neighbor-loving people. I still do.

One of my favorites in the series, The Long Winter, is actually pretty bleak; it chronicles the Ingalls family living on the brink of starvation while blizzards pummel the prairie for months on end. While the situation is dire, the determination, faith, and cooperation within the family and among neighbors carries them through the long winter.

Last winter, our first back in New England after seven years away, was a long one, if only by 21st century, first-world standards. We brought home our newest baby girl from the hospital on Christmas day, which resulted in a whole lot of joy accompanied by a 24-hour recurring cycle of feeding, diapers, and oft-interrupted sleep. The other big event was that it snowed from November to May. I like snow very much. I did agree to move to New Hampshire. But when the snow started blocking my ability to interact with adult human beings – other than my wonderful, very interesting husband – on a regular basis, I felt a bit like Pa Ingalls:

“Then suddenly he shook his clenched fist at the northwest. ‘Howl! blast you! howl!’ he shouted. ‘We’re all here safe! You can’t get at us! You’ve tried all winter but we’ll beat you yet! We’ll be right here when spring comes!'”

I shook my own fist at the snow. I cleaned off the minivan every Thursday morning, desperate to at least make it to library storytime, which I considered to be a social event for myself. While we never lacked food or shelter or other material necessities, I ran low on the special kind of joy that comes from regular meaningful interactions with other adults. The bright spots of this low season happened whenever family or friends visited, wrote, called, texted, and Facebooked (and whenever I did the same). I just needed and wanted more of that.

So this year I’m planning ahead. It’s been a lovely summer full of beach and lake days, parties hosted and attended, walks outside, trips to the playground, ice cream at the farm stand, and visits and get-togethers all around New England. I’m using the momentum from all of this summer fun to stock up on what I need for wintertime because the days and nights are getting chillier and before we know it the first snow will fall. Here’s my plan for getting through it this time around:

  • Prioritize relationships with my People – the family and friends who are always my favorites. This means visiting, hosting, texting, calling, writing, and whatever else it takes to remind them that I love them.
  • Rekindle my relationship with my best furry buddy, PJ Kilroy (our dog). Most of this winter, spring, and summer, I looked at PJ as a nuisance, one more chore on the to-do list, so that’s what he became. He’s a needy creature with some frustrating habits, but he’s a good boy at heart and a loyal companion. PJ deserves tough love and cuddles, and he’s going to get both. We’ve started taking evening walks together, and things are better already.
  • Build relationships with people in my community. This is something I’ve already been working on. I talk to everyone – at the playground, at church, at preschool dropoff and pickup. We live in a vibrant community, and I’m tapping into it. There are new friends to be found here.
  • Explore different ways to bond with people with whom I share a common interest. For instance:
    • The Sorta Awesome hangout is a Facebook group for fans of Megan Tietz’s Sorta Awesome podcast. The ladies who congregate there are good, smart, fun people who share ideas, stories, and encouragement about a range of topics from parenting to bingeworthy TV. I love stopping by there to read and contribute to the discussion.
  • Keep a stash of good books on hand at all time. Ernest Hemingway said, “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” That’s way too dramatic, but books are good companions. I plan to check off quite a few from my Book Bucket List and add new titles too.

It’s bound to be a dark, cold, snowy winter. I know I won’t be cheery all the time. But I’m already one step ahead, and this year I will plow through winter rather than let it beat me.

Side Notes: