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January 12, 2018

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The Weight of Winter

Story and photos by Jill O'Brien

Prairie sunset

After less than nine hours of daylight, the sky reaches down, touches the earth and the two seal up like a clamleaving us in the heavy murkiness of night. For those who need the light, the weight of darkness can be crushing. To maintain wellness we look for light elsewhere during these hoursin the glow of a fire, the flicker of a candle, the smile of a child, and we hunker down and wait for morning to return.

Outside in the prairie’s pitch blackness, the opposite is happening with the wildlife. Winter's silence is broken by the howls of coyotes alerting each other to their whereabouts. The nighttime predators, from cats to skunks, slip through the shadows mostly unnoticed in search of their next meal.  And the buffalo are on the move, grazing to stay warm and nourishedsustaining enough calories to get them through.

Winter on the Prairie

For us humans who live in sub-zero, winter temperatures, it is difficult to get excited about going out and about. It's scary enough in the daytime and can be seriously dangerous at night, not to mention the layers and layers of weighty clothing one must put on to fend off the life-threatening elements.  Perhaps if it were necessary to find our next meal, there would be more incentive. This is when I’m perfectly happy to stay pent-up, grateful for the modern conveniences of food in the larder, and the appliances that house and heat the food.

During the deep winter, I no longer try to fight the darkness—instead, I give into it with a winter hibernation sleep pattern and go to bed early. Early to bed means early to rise and the coffee is made long before there is any sign that time has moved forward, even though ten hours have passed. 

On the cold, lightless, weekend mornings when the rush to start your day isn’t necessary, the aroma of coffee beckons the accompaniment of sausage and a stack of pancakes with real maple syrup. The warm, golden elixir glows as it's poured over the cakes, swirling with the butter before it drips over the edges like a slow-moving waterfall. I like my pancakes thin, with crispy edges and a creamy, malty flavor. The first bite is instant pleasure and it lingers all the way to the last bite of the sausage that mopped the plate of any remaining sticky goodness. Although I am heavy with happiness, I am also filled with a light, warm-fuzzy feeling.

Then the morning show begins: A crack in the seal appears in the form of a thin red ribbon, prying the sky loose from the earth.  A new day is dawning, with each day a little earlier than the last. 

On many of these mornings the winter clouds loom heavy and low, threatening to leave your bright day in a shroud of whiteness. The whiteness is beautiful though, as the light seeps through, spotlighting only the things that can touch it. 

The whiteness continues to fall downward past the light, blanketing the prairie with snow and weighing it down with its glistening garb.

But, it is magicaland in the magic of it, we know it will disappear, we just don’t know when. So we cope with the winter weight the best way we know how, and although that coping is different for each of us, I personally recommend long sleep, with “weekend” breakfasts of sausage and pancakes covered in golden maple syrup. That’s how the light gets in.

p.s. Our Wild Idea Breakfast Sausage is included in this month’s special. I’ll include my recipe for pancakes too! Just don’t tell Jared. ;) (Jared’s, Mr. January's/Paleo Story can be read here.)

 

 


Comments

Linda Clark

January 13, 2018

I look forward to these photo/written word essays so much, Jill, and forward them far and wide. An Adirondack Mt. childhood left me with a love of winter and your work here has given me a welcome taste of it here. Much needed as our below freezing temps of last week and the foot of snow have left us as temps climbed to 61 last night and inches of rain are about to fall. With temps falling below freezing tonight! Winter is Greater Boston leaves much too be desired, at least by me!

Harriott Cheves Leland

January 13, 2018

Thank you, Jill. I can see and hear and almost feel your winter and definitely smell those pancakes, syrup and sausage. Time to order some for me. Take care.

Toni Stimmel

January 13, 2018

Reminded me of Robert Service,
“And speak of your cold,
through the parka’s fold,
it stabbed like a driven nail.”
Re: Cremation of Sam McGee

Lee Myers

January 13, 2018

One visit to your ranch lingers afresh like this morning’s pancake with your photos and words. Thank you.

Kathy Antonen

January 13, 2018

Winter is my favorite season—for nature’s beauty that you capture in words and photos. I agree with the hibernation, too.

You have a way with food and words, Jill.

Tim Harris

January 13, 2018

Your essay of this morning reminded me of my time in Alaska! Then as I read the comments and I got down to Toni Stimmel’s comment regarding Robert W. Service and The Cremation of Sam McGee I remembered a wonderful artist who would stand in the lamplight at a tourist spot outside of Fairbanks and recite poems of Service… one of my favorite quotes is
“Some praise the Lord for Light, The living spark;
I thank God for the Night The healing dark”

Richard (Pake) Sytsma

January 13, 2018

I love your products and your business philosophy. I just received the January bundle and it looks amazing. The only thing missing was Jill’s pancake recipe. Looking forward to a long relationship, and that recipe. ?

Doreen Faldzinski

January 13, 2018

Thanks for this Jill-makes me feel warmer just knowing that there is someone else in the wide open (I live in rural Indiana) who has a love/not so much feeling about this season, especially with the -11 & 35 mph windgusts of this morning! I will think of your photos & words when I turn in early tonight!

Jerry and Norma Reynolds

January 13, 2018

I do not think I have ever read another author’s words that were more realistic in the description of what they wanted to portray. I truly do not believe anyone else ever could come as close to making me feel, taste, see, smell, and experience the emotion of what you were describing. Your words are amazing; beautiful. I wanted to shiver, snuggle under the covers that I have already left behind this morning, sniff the air to check for the aroma of coffee, and then rush to the table to watch that syrup pouring over the crispy pancakes. Thank you for sharing those delightful moments with us as we watched for the dawn to break through and reveal the heavy white blanket covering the ground. LOVE IT!

Mary Flaherty

January 13, 2018

I always like your stories and photos, esp. these!
As it has been bitter cold in Iowa this December and January.
I am not fond of winter! Seeing these photos, helps me!

Jim

January 13, 2018

It’s a toss up Jill, whether you write or photograph better.

Keith and Kay Lewis

January 13, 2018

WOW. What beautiful children. What a wonderful essay and photos. What a vital mission!

We’re so thankful that another generation is being raised to appreciate Nature and Compassion.

And sitting here on this stormy Atlantic isle looking out toward the horizon, I’m inspired by your imagery: " the sky reaches down, touches the earth and the two seal up like a clam." And I’m reminded of a song: “fine is the line between the sea and the sky. Fine is the line between sky and sea.” Both images—the sea and Great Plains—nurture feelings of home.

Note: “Wildest Sea” from the CD titled “Clearwater” performed by Chris and Meredith Thompson.

Lan Evenson

January 13, 2018

Your details so wonderfully written of the bitterness of the frigid winter. I am living with the below zero temps in the metro area of Fargo, ND the winds are dangerous with below temps. The photos that accompany your story are very fitting. I really appreciate both you and Dan’s writing.

Ann Ratcliffe

January 13, 2018

Exquisite photos and beautifully written “commentary” – thank you, Jill

Jo Anne Busch

January 14, 2018

Read your post this a.m., brought back memories of childhood, when we living near the Salmon River and Sawtooth mountains in Idaho. The elevation was around 7,000 feet so your description was so accurate for there also. The tempature could go as low as 50 below in winter, our house was not well insulated, we had 2 heating stoves, one cook stove and at times had all three burning. Guess who had to pack wood? The kids! Most winters we had lots of snow, four or five feet, and we played outside well bundled up when it was above zero and only during daylight. On Saturday or Sunday our family went skiing with another family then met for supper of waffles and sausage. Later we played cards. Thank you for sharing.

Jane Murphy

January 14, 2018

Beautiful descriptions of winter schedules and spectacular sunrises. Is there anything better than sausage and pancakes?

Fee Jacobsen

January 15, 2018

Thank you, Jill. Awe-inspiring!!

Teresa

January 17, 2018

Your pictures are wonderful. Those two little guys are as cute as they come. Your breakfast looks delicious and after reading your story, my dislike for winter is a little less. Thanks for sharing!

Cindy Lou Hess

January 29, 2018

though I am miles away, I am in, I am in… love, love all that you are, all that you do…

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