“For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.”
This prayer of thanks is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson whose family celebrated an extended Thanksgiving with family, friends, feasting, and fun. Shelter and sustenance. Protection and nourishment. Dwelling place and daily bread.
When Winter comes, the importance of shelter and sustenance is magnified, not only for humans but for all creatures. Where are their dwelling places, and how do they get enough food to sustain them during the sometimes harsh conditions of snow-covered land and frigid temperatures? On our Thanksgiving trek to Warner Lake County Park, we passed a corn field with a flock of Trumpeter Swans grazing on left-over corn kernels. Their aquatic home is the Mississippi River, just miles north, where the warmth of a power plant keeps the River free from ice. Some swans and geese stay here for the winter, while most migrate to warmer places in the south. Do you migrate to a warm winter climate or hunker down in the frosty North in your toasty house? Do you have a preferred ‘winter’ food?
Animal homes come in all forms. We wondered what lived in these holes on the bank of a creek near Warner Lake. The burrowed home among cedar tree roots gave the resident critter quick access to the water. Where is your refuge from the elements? What environment gives you security and happiness?
Pileated Woodpecker holes in trees provide protection and nourishment for these hard-hitting birds as they search for insects and construct (destruct) nest holes. The holes they make in dead trees are often used for shelter by owls, bats, and pine martens. What is the source of your livelihood? How do you stay healthy?
As we walked through the pine forest on our trail, we saw little pathways of trampled-down pine needles diverging through the woods. What paths do you travel in your daily life?
In the sandy mud by the creek, we spotted a Raccoon track. Many of their meals are acquired in the water—crayfish, frogs, and insects. Raccoons store fat through summer and fall and spend much of their winter asleep in a den made in a tree or fallen log. How do you spend your winter? What do you do in this season of rest?
How do animals find their winter dwelling places? This tree probably had a small hole at its base, and some little creature has been working hard to make a home for itself. Sawdust and wood shavings line the floor of the tiny cavern at the foot of the large, moss-covered tree. Where is your dwelling place?
Life and nourishment are a little easier for the birds and squirrels who live close to our home. This Black Squirrel and his friends come for a meal of black-oil sunflower seeds on a near-daily basis. How do you ask for and receive your daily bread?
Our literal dwelling place may change completely in Winter, but most often the home we live in during the Summer is also our Winter home. But there is a change—we are boarded up, bound up, and bundled up. There is a quiet security in the dark evening with the fireplace crackling and throwing out heat, while a pot of soup on the stove sends out delicious smells of onions and herbs. Rest and sleep seem to come easier with the longer night, and the morning light is welcomed and appreciated. Nourishment is extended from food for our bodies to food for our souls. Time for reading, meditation, prayers, and self-care is available if we make the decision and commitment to ourselves. Time with friends is more about being than doing—tell me about your struggles, your joys, your sweet memories, and the dark burdens that may re-surface with the long, dark nights. We can wrap it all up in a bundle of understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. Our dwelling place can be Love.