The Four Seasons – Winter

This is, of course, winter. A much-despised season, anywhere the temperatures drop below freezing. Snow! Ice! Freezing rain! Cold! Wind! Overcast gray days and long, deep nights.

Why do people hate winter? Our ancestors may have dreaded it when there wasn’t enough fuel put by, or the harvest was poor, or the goat went dry early. But if there was plenty of firewood or peat, the pantry was stocked, and the animals had fodder for the whole season, it must have been a pleasant time of gathering the family, resting and getting indoor tasks done. Outside of the chores in barn or byre, the wood to be carried in to the fire, the meals to cook, it was a time for stories, sewing, knitting, handwork, and love. (I’d rather give birth in August or September, when there is plenty to eat and the days are warm.)

Why do we hate it now? Because we have to go out in it, we say, to drive the car to work, to go shopping, to take the children to school or activities. It interferes with our routine, it causes accidents, it isolated us from what we want to do.

But isn’t that because, in the late twentieth century, we were promised a life of endless summer days, climate controlled, with all the year-round diversions we can stand? Don’t we expect to buy strawberries in February, tomatoes in March? Don’t we demand lettuce on our ground beef patties every single day of the year?

It was a beguiling song. Science and capitalism would give us the indoor shopping mall, the fast food restaurant, the supermarket, and we would never have to be concerned about seasons again out there in God’s nasty creation. Seasons spoiled our fun. Saving and planning were old-fashioned. Life could be, the advertising told us, a perfect day at the beach, all the time.

But our much-abused and polluted planet fought back, metaphorically speaking. Maybe we should have paid more attention in physics class. Laws of energy? What are they for? For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

We danced the minuet of careless youth too long, and the piper wants overtime.

I don’t think we can go back to the days of endless summer, to climate-controlled malls and the dream of the long cruise to nowhere. Those pursuits have bankrupted us. We have to live in the world’s seasons again, adapting to the changes, and adjusting for each year.

I would like to think we can do it. We can give up on making summer out of winter, and spring out of summer. We may not get fresh tomatoes year-round, but have to can our own, grown in our own gardens, cooked and bottled in our own kitchens. The mall may have to close. The whirlwind of revolving credit will have to blow itself out in a hundred thousand pitiful personal insolvencies and fiscal failures.

One of the reasons for the interest that thas grown in Plain-living people is because we envy their independence from our culture. Really, they have their own culture to contend with, but we envy the big gardens and the ingrained self-sufficiency. The world is charmed by plainness. They seem so in tune with life itself, and that isn’t far wrong, even if romanticized.

But who wants to give up the mall, make-up, television, tight jeans, fast cars, and the American dream of success and prosperity?

That is what it will take, and that dream is becoming a nightmare.

I am enjoying this winter. Right now, we have life arranged so that we don’t have to go out everyday. The truck sits in the driveway for days. Some weeks, the only person who starts it is the man who plows the snow. (I have the best plowman – he moves the truck, clears it off, plows behind it, and shovels the step.) I have a stock of food, mostly dried beans and winter vegetables. I make our meals out of some verybasic ingredients. If we run out of milk or eggs, we manage without them. If we don’t have meat for a week, it is fine with us. We are not spending much money except to prepare for our life here at the homestead.

I know that many have jobs that are necessary to pay the bills – the mortgage, the loans, the utilities. We manage on very little. It has taken catastrophe to get us here, but now I regret that we didn’t get here sooner, without all the trouble. It’s true – Plain life is good.

But can you shake off the cycle of debt yourself? What sacrifices would you have to make – shopping, vacation, hobbies, cable tv, cellphones, second car? What would it take to make you enjoy winter as a quiet time of peace and rest?

My suggestion, short of voluntarily throwing it all to the winds: Stop shopping. Get rid of all extraneous activities, from television to bowling league. Cook from basics, going to the supermarket but once a month. Work out a plan to pay off your debt, except your mortgage, in a year. I don’t have to tell you how -there’s lots of expert advice out there. All it takes is self-discipline and getting your family in line with it. Cut out all those unnecessary trips in the car. Tell your kids they are staying at home.

Then, when the financial house is in order, tell the boss you don’t need to work as much. Cut back to three or four days a week. Telecommute. Work as a consultant, scheduling your own time. Even if you have a tiny lot in a city, dig up your lawn or patio and plant your own food. Keep a few chickens if you can. Even in an apartment you can find some garden space – planters indoors, window boxes, balconies.

Or change jobs. Take something that pays less but is closer to home. Don’t worry about the prestige. It is more important to be a good parent to your kids and a good partner to your spouse than to have people see you in your suit and tie, driving an expensive car downtown. They won’t think about you a second later, if they ever noticed you at all.

Then you can enjoy winter. You can stay home and rest and read and watch your kids grow up. You’ll have time for church and friends. You will have time to know yourself, even – and give yourself over to God, thankful for His creation.

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18 thoughts on “The Four Seasons – Winter

  1. Outstanding, Magdalena. I did quit my job:) I do enjoy the freedoms it brings! To say nothing of the sheer blessedness of always knowing where your kids are:)

    • I didn’t realize what I was missing until I got out of the social pressures of a professional job. I’ve had big homes and lived in social settings of the sort you see on “Real Housewives” – and I would never trade my Plain clothes, my tiny cottage, and my husband working by my side for that old life. I have never missed the yacht, the Bethesda condo, the historic home, the vacations, the parties, the shopping. It was a world of deception, and it could have ruined me.

  2. This post reads as deeply out of tune with ordinary people and their problems. Most people are not receiving a pension which does not require them to leave the house, and which permits them to live wherever they choose.

    I do not mind the winter, because in Vancouver it’s really just the rainier season. But my mother minds it very much; she has arthritis and it causes her terrible pain. My kids aren’t wild about it because they prefer to do more outside play. We have a very small house.

    What do you think the children should give up? Education? School, if they go (mine don’t)? Math class? Piano? Should they stop going to synagogue? Stop playing with friends at their house and ours?

    My husband should stay home. Good idea! He should tell tenants that they musn’t let their toilets overflow on a Monday or a Friday. Want a mortgage? Sorry, no mortgage for you. Try to sustain your financial crisis until it’s more convenient.

    Of course winter’s going to be a long slog, with no hobbies (knitting is a hobby) and no TV.

    Telling people to become consultants and quit their jobs, in one of the worst job markets in our lifetime, is foolish. Consulting jobs flourish in good times.

    And frankly, I want my husband to go to work every day, to work hard and long hours, because this is what I believe a man is. He works long hours to support his family. He doesn’t stay home because it’s winter. He doesn’t change diapers at two o’clock in the afternoon. He’s a man, and the meaning of manhood is to work.

    • I sense some cultural differences here. Agrarian/urban, east coast/west coast, liberal/conservative. I should say “contractor” rather than “consultant.” We took a huge drop in income five years ago, to less than one quarter of what we had been earning. It’s been a steep learning curve. My husband did work until the stroke, and I have done what I could since to keep us housed and fed. I could have given up on the dedicated agrarian life, to go back to the States and find a professional job. If we can find a way to do this, others can. And when spring comes, there will be plenty of work to do, on a farm that has been fallow for a decade!

      • I agree with you Magdalena. Most of my girlfriends think they ‘have’ to work, but if they actually did the math and took into consideration that others are raising their kids (daycare) they would find they are working for nothing, in fact working out is costing their families. Yes, maybe if you had a job that paid 60K+, working might be beneficial, but those jobs are few and far between around here.

        We get by on one ‘income’. Being real farmers (i.e. no off farm job or teacher pension) we are often cash poor, Ella dances in the winter but that’s all. Kids these days are so over scheduled it borders on child abuse. A lot of the girls in Ella’s class are army kids and it’s crazy. These 4-6 year olds are in 4 dance classes, skating, swimming and school, in the summer soccer gets added. No wonder kids are so badly behaved these days, they are exhausted.

        Also, people hate winter because they think they should be able to dress like it’s spring. People have forgotten to dress for the weather. They would rather look fashionable than be warm. I went to university in London, it was winter most of the year. I gave up being fashionable then. I’d much rather wear boots and a hat and be warm.

      • You and I have known both lives, and we chose what we thought was sensible and Christ-led. One of the first lessons: Be content! And wear a tocque! It’s Canada!

    • I would have to say that as there are four seasons in the year, there are also seasons of life, at different times different things are important to us.
      There is no right or wrong way to live, some live in cities and love it and some hate it, some live in the country and love it and some hate it. Some are never happy wherever they live, they are always yearning for more.
      The reality is that we all need some money in order to live and take care of ourself and our family.
      And I am thankful that not everyone choses to be a hermit, we need doctors, nurses, mechanics, garbage men, bankers, pharmacists, farmers, teachers. There are many groups who opt for the plain life, but if they have appendicitis they are surely very grateful for the skilled surgeon, the pain medication, the ambulance staff etc.
      There are items that I will always have to purchase, I may make my own clothes, but I purchase the fabric, I have never had a desire to make my own toothbrush, or attempt to make a saucepan, I am thankful that I can purchase these items when needed. And in order for me to have these items available, someone has to work to produce the raw materials, someone has to drive a train and truck to deliver the items, someone has to tend the store so I can buy the items.
      Are some overly materialistic – yes, are some foolish with money and have priorities that seem disordered compared to our own – sure they are, but each person has to arrive at their own conclusion about what is good for them and what is excess – you can’t tell them.
      We like the agrarian life, it suits us well, but it doesn’t suit everyone.

      This conversation is beginning to remind me of the story of The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse – 🙂

      • Even the factory worker can go home to a peaceful garden and a gentle life – we can’t all farm. And I know some who drive truck so their family can live on a homestead, and will do that until the mortgage is paid and the crops are putting a bit of cash in hand. I gardened in the city, and foraged fruit for preserves and my Asian neighbours back in London were especially talented at it, even growing gardens vertically on patios and balconies. I am cautioning everyone to start doing what they can. All indications are that food is going to get more expensive.

  3. I live a lot like you, and I love winter! I love the distinct change of seasons, the rhythym of this natural, traditional life connected to the earth and all of creation. To me, every season has its enjoyments and its annoyances, and by each season’s end I am delighting in the next approaching change. I have really enjoyed your recent posts in these long dark days, living on bread, stew, and apples, thinking and planning the coming spring and summer yet fully LIVING this season itself.

    Definitely the spirit of what you write and behind the way you live is something that can be translated and made one’s own, if desired, no matter what ties to the world often must still remain in this modern age. Another blog I enjoy (though not religious in nature) is http://www.down—to—earth.blogspot.com

    • I just had homemade bread and chili – I know what you mean. We told ourselves that this winter would be one of living very close to the old ways – so we have avoided imported food, and stocked up on beans and grains. I grew up near where we live. This is my native country, and I do love it. You know how Russians talk about the old country ways, and they get all emotional for their lost patch of the Motherland? I’m like that.

  4. magdalena,

    Oh my goodness!! this is profound yet so simple all can understand it!!!!! You should print this out and send it to your local member, all the newspapers in Canada, and please, oh please, send it (perhaps with an introductory letter and a few words of encouragement & thanks) to your dear dear fellow countryman David Suzuki! I am dead serious, Magdalena, you and he are preaching from the same page – he on the temperal, and you touching on spiritual deminsions as well as the temperal.

    Yes!! Rev 11: 18 is in the Bible for a reason – if we continue down the endless summer path, the shells will line up and we’ll reap the results.

    PEOPLE!! LISTEN TO THIS WOMAN OF GOD, SHE KNOWS WHAT SHE IS TALKING ABOUT!!!

    Sarah.

    • Now, you are making me blush. Dr. Suzuki has degrees and all. I’m just a would-be dirt farmer. Pray that God will give us the neergy, resources and good weather we need to feed not just ourselves (thus reducing our cost to society) but many others.

  5. Yes, a man should work, but there is nothing wrong, and everything wonderful, about a man working at home or nearer to home. Where he can have more impact on his family as well as bring home money. This is what the Amish do/did and are struggling to continue to do. Keeping the family together, the parents in their roles working together to bring up the children. Deuteronomy 6:7 comes to mind. However wonderful it is, most of us cannot have our man close to home or at home. It is a journey for a family who does want to live less dependent on the society around them for their needs and to steer more clear of places and habits in society that tempt us to develop a desire for things we don’t need and perhaps should not have. We should at least be questioning ourselves in these areas and make changes a little at a time when we find we should be changing. Replacing old habits and ways with new ones. You may not live like the average person ( Stealth), and I know you live in a close community, so you have some good things going for you and your family. But most people are not doing this and these people determine what society ( and business ) does, spends their money on etc… . So, now it is nothing to see little kids running around with cell phones, having laptops, having the latest video games and machines, and plenty of them having 4 wheelers ( close to home a family cannot afford a furnace, but the kids have matching 4 wheelers). A common problem for young ( and not so young) parents who are struggling is to feel they have to indulge their kids to make up for all the things they feel they are not giving them but should. If kids go to school, as so many do, they are affected by all this and even conservative parents often soften their standards eventually. I have seen parents taking vacations who could not afford them and skipped paying bills, so their kids will have the experiences. These kind of people ( not saying they are bad, but just noting how this kind of folk tend to be) tend to not be very concerned with the larger picture and deeper concerns about life. They are counting on what they want and need to just be there. Some people are not interested in having convictions and living by them, just prefer to skim along the top. People who are thinking of living more of a plain lifestyle are a questioning bunch who tend to have strong principles and feel compelled to live them out.

    I am limited as to how far I can go because of our son’s needs. We accumalated a lot of debt helping him and another son in a way I don’t think we could have avoided, or should have. We are not going to be paying ours off in one year. WE could not, maybe some could. We need two cars because of our son’s issues and how far we live out from cities – he is on a special diet and I can’t some of it near here. We are working on that, though. He is on over $300 worth of supplements that insurance does not pay for a month and often more than that. His SSI check does not cover it all by any means. He is not autistic, but many parents of autistic kids face the same thing we do – having to have lots of weird tests insurance doesn’t pay for and lots of supplements and diets. Drugs have already given my son reversible (so grateful) 3 serious blood disorders and several other serious health ailments. The drugs they want to put him on have been known for irreversible and fatal blood problems. No, I will continue to pray and count on God to help me do the right things. So, my husband has to work a lot of hours and does. I gave up the cell phone, but my car broke down and my husband said I needed to have one, it was not feasible for all the driving I do to not have one. I latched on to my daughters plan at her invitation. I won’t do a contract. I wanted to give up the computer – just find myself shying away from this thing that has changed life so much, communication, so much. So many negative things about it and yet, I have used it to study endless hours for years and ultimately led me to some things that helped my son. So, I have one for now. But when i can get rid of something that bothers me, I do. I am always trying to figure out ways to truly slim things down around here to take care of, fool with. Less things to have to sit on a phone for long periods of time to deal with. I got so sick of “having” to do this and having to do that – bah! In order to not have to do some of these things I had to give up some things and that is where we all have to decide what it is we need to give up in order to be living within our means and in a way that is less dependent on society and government, which will ultimately fail us.

    Well, I certainly blabbed a bunch!
    Joanie

    • Nicholas and I both worked from home in ministry. I did a little break-even shepherding on the side. I grew up in a family that was just one generation off the farm, and many of my friends’ fathers farmed, so were home in the kitchen part of each day. I like the idea that, God willing, Nicholas and I will be working side by side here.

  6. Wonderful post Magdalena! This is what we are working towards, and I am so happy to find others who are doing the same. It is a wonderful life if one can throw off the shackles of the world!! Blessings!

    • Debra, I am so glad to see that I have helped you. I was afraid that I had hindered you at one point, and I have continued to pray for you. God bless you in your discernment.

      • thank you for your prayers, they have meant much to me…..and now your blog and your way of life will be an encouragement to me as well. God bless you dear friend!! 🙂

  7. magdalena,

    No need to blush 🙂 yes, Dr. Suzuki has his qualifications, but you both see life in the same way, in may instances. DZ sees a problem, speaks up about it, but unlike most in his field, provides simple and very practical solutions that anyone can start to impliment. You’ve beoth been on God’s green Earth long enough to see the shift, the changes, the old knowledge forgotten (this raised yesterday on ABC radio re architecture for heat-friendly homes in Aus_. Its not rocket science, as they say…

    I still say – send this to him!!!!!!

    Or write a specific letter along a similar vein.

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