Ready for Winter but Not for Spring

by Christine Sine
icicles on seeds

icicles on seeds

The northeast coast of the U.S. is battened down in preparation for an epic storm. Its not just the humans that need to be prepared either. Even the trees have work to do in preparation for the winter blasts.

Here in Seattle the days are exceptionally warm for January – yesterday it was over 60F. It is probable that we will have cherry blossoms and daffodils early this year. And I am keeping my fingers crossed that we do not get a late freeze. If we do it could kill our fruit trees because this warm weather has lulled them into believing that spring is already here and they have become vulnerable to any more winter blasts.

Ice berries

Have you ever wondered about how trees survive wintery blasts or why an early warm spell followed by freezing temperatures can kill trees that survive far colder temperatures in a usual winter.

The answers are astounding with powerful implications for our faith.

…trees are large, tall, and immovable. They have no choice but to face everything winter can throw at them.  And yet, as you travel north throughout the world one thing is ubiquitous: forests… (read the entire article)

A tree begins to prepare for winter far in advance of the icy blasts. In August as the days begin to shorten, chemical reactions occur in the tree signalling the need to slow down, stop growing and get ready. It is this that produces the vibrant colours of autumn. At the same time, deciduous trees set buds that contain next year’s leaves and flowers and then go into a dormancy, at least above ground. In some species the roots continue to grow, strengthening the tree as they search out water that has not frozen.
frozen tree
That is not enough however to cope with the destructive force of freezing water that can send sharp penetrating icicles through cell membranes anywhere. That too a winter hardy tree knows how to cope with. As the weather cools, the concentration of sugar in each cell increases dramatically and the plasma membrane becomes more flexible. It’s as though it produces its own sugary antifreeze that embraces the precious cell contents and keeps it safe until spring. The sap of the sugar maple, which is tapped for maple syrup, is a particularly good example of this.
As I read this last week I was overawed at the creativity and adaptability of God’s creation and I thought – how do I prepare for the times of winter that inevitably come to my life? Do I know how to recognize the first signs that winter is approaching so that I too can hunker down and allow my spirit to rest without feeling that I need to keep growing and producing? Or even more challenging am I willing to form buds that need to wait until next year to grow and produce?
Or perhaps I get impatient and let flowers burst into bloom too soon. If those buds that were set in August start growing prematurely they will be destroyed by the next icy winter’s blast. The tree will produce no leaves or fruit next year. It has no chlorophyll for photosynthesis and is likely to starve and die.
winter flowers
This description resonates in my soul as I think of the wintery seasons I have journeyed through in my faith and how easily I can try to push something in my life into bloom before the season is right. I am reminded of the many season when God has set buds for next year’s growth and I desperately want to see them spring into life. But God is saying, not yet, wait for the lengthening of days and the warming of the air. In the mean time enjoy the sweet sugary embrace of my protective presence. Allow your roots to grow down to the deep water you will need for the coming summer and enjoy the peace of a world at rest.
So as you sit int the midst of icy blasts in New York or enjoy the unseasonably warm winter of Seattle ask yourself what you still need to do to survive the winter. Are you really prepared for the season God has you in?

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