Many of us look forward to the first days of Fall. Tired of Summer heat, the first cool nights are welcomed as long lost friends. We breathe a deep sigh and let our minds dance to the activities just a thought away. The Fall colors of apples and pumpkins and cornstalks and happy scarecrows appear in the stores and we return to our favorite, seasonal aromas in a pumpkin pie latte or mulled cider.
Of course there’s the drudgery of packing away the shorts and swimsuits and all thinks “white” which we’ve been told, “must not be worn after Labor Day”. There are blankets to be added to bedding and, of course, the back-to-school hustles.
But these are short lived activities, soon replaced with plans for Thanksgiving followed by Christmas or Chanukah and all that those entail. So busy we are…spinning in circles…often losing sight of the merriment that is supposed to accompany each occasion. For some, deep depression sets in spawned by a variety of emotionally charged and uniquely personal sources. For some it’s lack of funds, for others, it’s loneliness or the family, once close, now scattered and absent. Whatever the cause, the shortening days, the chill in the air seem to add to the difficulty and far outweigh the joy of the end-of-the-year events.
I have to admit that I’ve always been of the former persuasion, excited as all get-out to watch leaves fall and grass turn brown and smell the fragrances born on cool breezes. I’ve always loved the holiday seasons even when funds have been tight. To me, it seemed there was always something to forward to, another holiday – just weeks away.
And then would come JANUARY. To me it has always been the most dreaded month. After having been so busy, so mentally active, with creative juices flowing for a full three months, there it was – January 1st – and not another festive occasion in sight. Looking out over a bleak, winter landscape on the first day of a new year, making resolutions that are unlikely to last into the second week, Valentine’s Day seems very far away and there is an unexpected longing for Spring. “Oh drab, dreary world.”
That was my outlook for more than half a century as I struggled to pull myself from the winter doldrums year after year after year after year. Last year was unusual for me and particularly difficult as I spent the holidays without my dear husband for the first time in almost forever. My normal holiday cheer was strained and uncomfortable. Of course, family lovingly came and family went throughout the season and by New Year’s Day I was packing my bag for a trip from Florida to South Carolina to spend much needed time with my oldest daughter.
Busy, busy, busy, I had kept myself so busy but the gloom persisted. Then, BAM, barely into Georgia, I was involved in an automobile accident. “Wow,” I thought, “what a way to welcome the New Year.” Little did I realize that I was about to learn one of the most important lessons of my life.
I returned home to doctors and impending surgery, to my empty house and bare trees and brown grass.
Retreating to my favorite, front-porch chair with my first morning coffee, I felt completely and thoroughly miserable. There were no antics of the squirrels chasing each other up and down the trunks of the trees to entertain me. The silence of the birds was deafeningly absent. On this particular day, no golden rays of early morning sun filtered through the bare branches overhead. The sky was grey, as gloomy as my mood and I began to think.
I didn’t think of my children or my husband or my loneliness or the injury to my shoulder. Strangely, my thoughts were locked on the absence of the little things that are generally taken for granted in my particular corner of the world. I remembered how busy the squirrels had been, gathering their nuts for the winter, filling their storehouses and imagined them snug and warm in their nests high in the old oak trees. I thought of the turtles no longer sunning themselves on fallen logs in the pond, but snug in their bed of mud. I thought of tiny things like the caterpillars safely wrapped in their cocoons. I thought of big things like the bears wintering in their dens. And then, a single word came to me.
The word was, “rest”. I thought about that word for a moment. Actually, I thought about it for almost an hour as a line of scripture came back to my remembrance:
“Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” ~ Matthew 11:28
I was most certainly ‘heavy laden’ and I wondered if it were possible that there is actually a purpose to the shortness of the days, the grayness of the sky, the cold that drives us indoors? Had this been a part of God’s plan all along?
I felt that I had learned a secret…the secret of January, the reason to rejoice and celebrate the opening of a new calendar year. No one tackles a great adventure without adequate preparation and what wonderful preparation it is to be well rested.
So as January came and January went I found my rested mind filled with anticipation, eager to grasp whatever the New Year had in store. There was a peace; even facing my shoulder surgery, that I honestly believe would not have been there had I not discovered the Secret of January.
~By Cia Dreves
(as published in Focus on Fabulous Magazine – Winter 2015)