The darkness of winter, the light of spring

I asked my Sweet Al why the broom was still on the front porch. I had asked him to sweep it. “What are you waiting for?”
As sincere as he could be, he said, “I was waiting to see what Whiskey was going to do.”
It made sense to him. His dog didn’t know if she wanted to go outside or stay in. He was waiting to see what she was going to do. He needed to know where her mind was. Meanwhile, mine was starting to stir while I stood there waiting for him to sweep the front porch.
Like his beloved dog, my Sweet Al has a one-track mind. The trick is figuring out which track he is on at any given time.
It was hunting season and Sweet Al drew a license. This is the ultimate track to be on in the mind of a hunter, a journey that starts long before “the big day.” If you were to go back several weeks in time, you would find Al digging out totes from the garage, sifting through layers and layers of hunting wares and gear.
Every day, he would visit his stack of folded clothes to make sure everything was ready to go. Then he would once over his shell box and gun case. When you have “deer” on the brain, few other things matter.
I’ve learned not to get in the way of his preparations. Day after day, I would let him make his rounds while I stared out the window and watched the deer and elk play in the field behind our house.
The big day would come and my Sweet Al was packed and out the door. He made a couple trips into the woods, but each time he came home with sadness in his eyes. At the end of day two, he said, “My days of hunting are over. I got my truck stuck and then couldn’t get turned around. Another hunter told me about a herd of deer in the canyon, so I walked a mile, but didn’t see a thing.”
My heart cried for my Sweet Al, not because he didn’t get his deer, but because he was coming to a difficult place in life. He conceded that he didn’t think he would be able to continue doing what he has loved for so many years.
I am sympathetic to where he is, but happy at the same time. There is nothing in me that wants to join him as he gets up at five in the morning, then sit in a truck while he wanders around in the forest. But to be honest, I do worry about him going out alone.
My son-in-law called and offered to help Al find his deer. Al was as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning. The two of them hunted from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., but, unfortunately, there was no deer to be had.
Al had a routine doctor’s appointment. I decided to tag along. While there, I listened to my Sweet Al tell story after story about his hunting days. His doctor patiently listened, and I listened too.
Even though the hunting season would come and go with no trophy for my sweet Al, everything seemed OK. I realized Al had something far more valuable than a freezer full of meat; he had stories to tell.
As these seasons in our lives come and go, I’m understanding that these are times of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual change.
Our next season is winter. There is a word in the Hebrew language for winter that means a season of hiding or a time of darkness. It seems ominous, but is actually the start of something far greater than what we know or where we find ourselves today.
We talk about the winter of our soul, a place where we wait for answers. Although we may be at a time of concluding that which we know or enjoy, the darkness of winter does eventually break. What springs forth? Something so much richer and fuller.
Final brushstroke: We tend to get on these tracks that garner all of our attention. When there is an abrupt change, we have two opportunities. Regret and long for what was, or an excitement to parlay that which was, in to something far greater. We may have to rest in a place of darkness while we come to an understanding of where we are today. But all that blooms from that which goes dormant will be lovelier and more fragrant than what we know.
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This story was posted on January 1, 2019.