Last weekend as I nervously assessed my garden for signs of life, certain a few plants had fallen prey to the cold spell we endured this past winter, I was struck with a familiar feeling—a feeling of hope tempered with acceptance. When I grasped each twig, I hoped to find it bend and not break, confirming it would soon reemerge with signs of life. Still, I was aware that I must also accept the harsh truth that not all of them made it through, as the first one I handled produced the audible confirmation that there was a casualty. By the end of my task, I had held over 30 different plants in my hand, with only two demanding that I practice acceptance. I was grateful for the twenty-eight that survived but wondered why the two that snapped didn’t have what it took to endure.

After closer inspection, I realized these particular shrubs had soil erosion at their base, and the roots had been exposed, although ever slightly. The other plants sustained themselves through the extreme temperatures by going dormant. They could do this because their life source, their root system, was protected by going deep and thus avoiding exposure to the elements.

I am a believer that nature is our timeless teacher. We can find answers to many of our existential questions if we deliberate to reflect on the natural realm around us. My walk through my yard that day was a stark reminder that it is not optional but essential to our survival to dig deep in the harsh times to have any chance of emerging with vitality and beauty once the season passes. Although the surviving plants were indistinguishable from those that didn’t make it at first glance, there will be no doubt in the coming weeks which ones are alive as their buds bloom and become a gift to all those passing by. They will display a beauty that was always there, only waiting for the perfect conditions to emerge. Winter is naturally the season that draws us indoors.

Everyone and everything has a natural inclination to hibernate, which makes for an ideal opportunity to reflect. However, we all know that harsh conditions are not confined to a few months on the calendar or even external elements. Most of our adversity, our harsh realities, are far more difficult to flee from than simply going indoors. So regardless of the month hanging on the wall, when trying times find us, and they certainly will, may we let them be a cue, a reminder to dig deep. To soul search, learn who we are, and refine our lives to become our ideal selves. Then when the season passes, as it always does, we will re-emerge with greater strength and beauty than we had when entering the harsh season we endured. And for this, the difficult season, circumstance, or experience is owed our gratitude for providing the perfect conditions to accelerate our growth. Our lives have natural seasons, not predictable but dynamic. Some we flourish, and some we are better off hibernating. Although very different at a glance, one thing is sure; they are all best endured with a mindset of hope tempered with acceptance. We need to hold hope that the good times will persist and engage in acceptance when we recognize it’s time to dig deep, hibernate and reflect, and rest assured we will emerge again in the next season.