“Winter’s Coming” For those of you who may watch or have heard of the HBO series based on the book Game of Thrones, this is the motto of the House Stark. The meaning behind these words is one of warning and constant vigilance. The Stark Family are the lords of the North, Winterfell, and strive to always be prepared for the coming of winter, which hits their lands the hardest.
A deeper, metaphorical sense can be found in the motto. According to the author George R.R. Martin, it more generally expresses the sentiment that there are always dark periods in each of our lives, and even if things are good now (“summer”), we must always be ready for a dark period when events turn against us (“winter”). In this sense “winter” parallels Richard of the House of York’s opening line in Shakespeare’s Richard III, “Now is the Winter of our Discontent/ Made glorious by this sun of York…”
In this sense it is loosely matched by the Latin phrase “memento mori” (“remember you have to die”), which was whispered into the ear of victorious Roman generals during their parade of triumph, to remind them that all earthly success if fleeting. (parts of these paragraphs came from the website Wikia.com)
I started reading the book series a couple of years before the TV series came out and I immediately connected with the Stark Family and their view on life. Having a garden center, landscape and now farm business, which is not just a business but way of life, we know better than anyone what this means. I worry about winter coming all year and this year was no different. In fact, I kept saying that I had a feeling this winter was going to be a bad one. I was unfortunately right, and little did I know how bad.
As a child, I used to love winter and the beauty, adventure and fun it can possess. The child in me still feels that way; however, the adult in me worries ad nauseam about all of the things that can go wrong. We Louisvillians have been spoiled for years with mild winters, but this winter is different, this is hardcore and playing for keeps. I have not seen anything like it in my lifetime.
Usually, we have a snow or ice event and it is gone the next day, or even that afternoon. We have had Polar Vortex #1 roll through here, then Polar Vortex #2 and now this. We close the retail garden center in the fall and our landscape jobs are the only source of income and cash flow that we have all winter long. First trick is to sell the jobs, second is to execute them. We are used to having to work around the winter, but this is just something different. This week alone we had snow on Monday, temperatures have kept it from melting, then snow, rain, sleet and ice on top of it. With forecasted continuing below freezing temps, there is no way we are going to be able to work this week at all. (Yes, this is a year that we should be doing snow removal as we don’t, but that is a discussion for another time)
Since we have started this whole homesteading farm and petting zoo thing, many of our friends, say to us with a little envy “we could never do what you guys do.” “We really admire what you do and it’s wonderful that you do it, however, we could never do it.” We always say, “Of course you could do it, it is just a matter of doing it.” We would have never thought that we were the ones who would do this if you asked us 5 years ago. But this is the winter where I say to many of our friends, “you know what, you might be right, you might not be able to do this.” I say that because this is the winter where I wonder if I can continue to do this!
It was bad enough to have winter affect our landscape business but now we take on this farm venture which adds even more winter stress. We must be masochists or something! And now, as if to add insult to injury, we get ice and lots of damage to our trees on the property, just relentless!
I am not writing this to complain, as I would not trade it. I write it more to reflect how interesting and different your outlook is on life when you are so connected to the natural world. We as humans have done a very good job of shielding ourselves from the problems of winter and adverse weather. Of course, our family has these modern conveniences as well, but for us the weather is everything. It literally dictates how the whole day is going to be dealt with and things change on the fly because of the weather all of the time. Just as it has been for millennia for farmers and people who work the land.
There is a sense of accomplishment every morning and afternoon, when I have completed the chores of feeding and watering, that I have done something real and honest. A sense that I am part of God’s creation and fully involved in the process, instead of just going through the motions, allowing technology to rule everything.
I can also guarantee you that there will be a sense of accomplishment, when this Spring I am reflecting back on the how we survived the worst winter we have ever experienced and are better and stronger because of it. After all, Spring is Coming!!!