Spring is coming

It is about -12 this morning. It makes me glad that I was able to take communion to a senior living center on Friday. Last evening we decided that we will not run our church bus this morning because of the cold. There would be no mechanical issues with running the bus, but it was decided that taking the people who ride the bus out in the cold wasn’t in their best interests. So I’m glad that I got to take communion to at least some of the riders of the bus.

Winter forces a few adaptations and changes. You have to make adjustments. Some of the adaptations cause strain. Mechanical systems are more prone to breakdown in the cold. This winter has put a kind of double strain on systems at the church. People tend to stay home when the weather is bad. Decreased attendance means decreased income at the church. At the same time, we’ve had to do a lot of snowplowing this winter, which means increased expenses. Heating the building costs more when the temperatures are cold outside. Decreased income and increased expenses are not a good combination. So we adapt and figure out how to spend less in some other areas of our life together. We’ll get by.

But things are easier these days than they were in earlier years. With fuel injection and electronic ignition, our cars are easier to start than was the case a few decades ago. Back in the 1970’s some of the folks in the churches we served would leave their vehicles running during worship because they weren’t sure they could get them started again if they shut them down. They were, however, more likely to make the effort to come to church than is the case with many folks these days.

People have been adapting to the weather for a long time. My grandfather was born in a sod home on the plains of North Dakota. Even after they had been able to construct a proper house and barn out of milled lumber, they were isolated in the winter. Some storms left them cut off from town for days at a time. They learned to be self-sufficient. They kept a rope stretched from the house to the barn so they wouldn’t get lost traveling between the two buildings in a blizzard. By comparison, we’ve got it pretty easy. Our garage is attached to our house. And we don’t have animals for which to provide care.

Speaking of animals, they had to make adaptations in Anchorage, Alaska yesterday for the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The actual race is held each year from Willow, just north of Anchorage to Nome on the west coast of the state. 1,000 miles on a sled pulled by a team of dogs is a challenging adventure. Just completing the race is a major accomplishment. 14 teams will be competing this year. The actual race starts today. But yesterday, they had a ceremony in Anchorage, which is the tradition. The teams parade through the downtown streets. However, unlike South Dakota this year, they are having an unusually mild winter in Anchorage, so they had to haul truck loads of snow into the city to dump on the streets so that the sleds could run on the city streets.

I’m trying to imagine how that would seem to the old timers. While cities across the midwest are straining their budgets to haul snow out of the downtown streets, Anchorage is using city funds to load trucks full of snow and bring it into the downtown area. Life is strange, especially when occupied by us humans and our entertainments.

Despite the cold and continuing winter, it is march. The days are getting longer. In just over two weeks, the spring equinox will arrive. Of course astronomical spring doesn’t mean warm weather and we’re used to a couple of months between the equinox and being able to set out tomato plants, but most of us have the seed catalogues sitting where we can grab them and page through the photographs of lush vegetation as we sit inside on cold winter nights.

I’ve actually had less time to sit around these days, with chores like shoveling to do. Yesterday I got a bit of a break when we postponed a firewood delivery due to slippery roads. But by the time I cleared the snow from our driveway and that of a neighbor and ran to town to do a few errands, I didn’t have trouble filling up my day with activities. I was tired by the time I got to bed. I did manage to take a few minutes to take pictures of the icicles on the church building to send to my grandchildren. The roof is dark and the snow thaws in the bright sunlight, but the water freezes as it flows over the edge of the roof. This year we have a few icicles that have made it from the eves to the ground. They are pretty dramatic. My grandchildren live in a part of the world where any icicles at all are rare. Their father will probably be mowing the lawn before the month is out. I’m thinking I’ll be good on that score until at least May, though all of this moisture will probably result in a good early season for grass this year.

So we adapt. I’ll go out to start the car just a bit earlier and let it warm up just a bit. Otherwise when I get in the car my breath will freeze on the inside of the windshield. We’ll have a smaller crowd for worship, but we’ve got some very good music planned and the service will be meaningful for those who are able to come. It is Transfiguration Sunday. Next week will be Lent and Lent makes us think of spring. It also reminds me of the increasing pace of activities. We always have a lot going on during Lent and Holy Week. Lent means “lengthen” and the season gets its name from the lengthening days in the northern hemisphere.

Spring is coming. Spring is coming. I’ll keep repeating that to myself as I put on hat and gloves and extra layers of clothing to keep warm as I head out this morning.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!