Strategies for Surviving Frigid Winter Weather

Carol A. Hand

I love the fact that I was born on the cusp of two different astrological signs. It gives me two choices every morning. Yes, simple minds are easily entertained. I like today’s options.
Aquarians are given the following message today.

“By accepting the fact that you cannot fix the ails of society at large, you’re free to work on the problems that are nearer to home and closer to your heart. Think globally; act locally.” (Rick Levine, Huffington Post)

I’ve learned that whining won’t change the weather. The ice is here to stay for a while, making outside work risky. There is no question that my expensive winter work boots are a hazard on ice, even if it’s snow-dusted. But my Yak-Traxed tennis shoes do work. My toes don’t freeze as quickly as my nose and fingers when I do venture out in the below zero deep-freeze, so there’s little danger of frostbitten toes.

Although that means there’s not much I can do outside, I can still think, learn, and write. That’s where the message of Pisces comes in handy.

“Rumi wrote, ‘You were born with wings; Learn to use them and fly.'” (Rick Levine, Huffington Post)

Tennis shoes are not wings, but ideas and imagination can be. While working with my friend and colleague on a new social justice class, there’s a chance to try to find our wings using trees as a metaphor for people and communities. It’s already inspired me to learn more and I discovered an incredible resource, The Astonishing Science of What Trees Feel and How They Communicate, by Maria Popova.

Trees are incredible living beings. They live far longer than humans if we let them be, and they do so as supportive communities. Here’s an excerpt from Popova’s fascinating article about Peter Wohlleben’s new book, The hidden life of trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate.

“Wohlleben ponders this astonishing sociality of trees, abounding with wisdom about what makes strong human communities and societies:

“Why are trees such social beings? Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. To get to this point, the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age. Regular fatalities would result in many large gaps in the tree canopy, which would make it easier for storms to get inside the forest and uproot more trees. The heat of summer would reach the forest floor and dry it out. Every tree would suffer.

“Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. Next time, perhaps it will be the other way round, and the supporting tree might be the one in need of assistance.


“A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.

“One can’t help but wonder whether trees are so much better equipped at this mutual care than we are because of the different time-scales on which our respective existences play out. Is some of our inability to see this bigger picture of shared sustenance in human communities a function of our biological short-sightedness? Are organisms who live on different time scales better able to act in accordance with this grander scheme of things in a universe that is deeply interconnected?”

My colleague has inspired me to keep learning new things that make me aware of how many things I simply have not noticed. It helps inspire my imagination to take flight. I have always noticed the willow tree that graces my front yard with its imposing presence. I had to have its mate removed my first year here.

Willow - February 15, 2012
Willow – February 15, 2012

Perhaps you can see the decay that had spread through the center of the trunk of the tree on the left in the photo above. It was only a matter of time before it fell. Ever since then, I have had a tree service tend to the remaining tree to keep it healthy. The winds here on the southwestern tip of Lake Superior are often fierce.


I do worry about the lone survivor that must stand against the wind.

Wounded Willow - June 13, 2015
Wounded Willow – June 13, 2015

The willow did lose a huge branch in a summer storm, but it has survived.






It’s featured in many of my photos because I love it.




Thinking about trees as a metaphor for people and communities awakened my curiosity to know more about willow trees. I wondered if willow trees have “genders” and instinctively found myself wanting to refer to the remaining willow tree as “she.” Willows do indeed have distinct genders. I realize that I have never really looked closely at the flowers, or catkins, that bloom profusely in the spring.

Wikipedia: Male Catkin - by Marcel Zurreck - Own work CC BY-SA 3.0 Female Catkin - by Nadiatalent - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Male Catkin – by Marcel Zurreck – Own work CC BY-SA 3.0
Female Catkin – by Nadiatalent – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0


Learning more about trees and willows has only made me realize how much more there is to know about these incredible living beings. Now, I have another reason for eagerly anticipating the spring thaw. I want to pay attention to the catkins when they bloom and learn more about one of the oldest residents in this neighborhood. The willow has witnessed so many changes and I am eager to do my best to make sure it lives through many more.


25 thoughts on “Strategies for Surviving Frigid Winter Weather

    1. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your love of trees, Trace. I found some interesting information about white pines that suggests their adaptability to warming climates ( The plight of trees and forests around the globe is truly alarming, and it’s been interesting to realize that the potential allies in protecting tress are foresters, the harvesters of trees (who sometimes describe themselves as “the stump-makers)…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great post. I’ve always loved plant life. I used to climb trees and sit in them for long periods of time as a kid – sometimes just to hide from people. It was a lot of fun to sit as high as the roof of a two story house and watch people wonder where I was. I’d laugh and feel as if I was sharing a special moment with a close friend. 🙂

    Thanks for such an inspiring post. Trees are awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your memories of delightful days with a childhood friend, A Shift in Consciousness. I, too, love trees and my heart aches with concern for their treatment and chances of survival. I just watched an alarming documentary that described the deforestation of Madagascar to create plantations of sisal (Last Chance to See – Sisal can be used to make cardboard shipping containers that are more easily recycled, a ridiculous way to address environmental issues and sustainability. I’m reminded of Jared Diamond’s (2005) work, Collapse:How societies choose to fail or succeed.” He argues that deforestation has led to the demise of past civilizations because it created environments that could no longer support life.

      I’m grateful to know this post reawakened such lovely memories. Trees are such a treasure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, they definitely are. About a year and a half ago, I lived in a house in Long Island, a suburb of NYC. There was a Black Walnut tree in the front yard that gave me hours of enjoyment watching squirrels eat walnuts while sitting on the branches. I also harvested some for human consumption. It was a lot of work, but a few people thoroughly enjoyed walnuts in oatmeal or as a healthy snack. It was great. I miss that tree.

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  2. Oh trees! I love them so much! I talk to them and feel their issues since I was very young but that has exacerbated since I studied Permaculture and horticulture as now I can “see” their problems in a more “scientific” way…here in Vancouver area we are having a very unusual spell of icy temperatures and snow. We have issues with shelters and homeless and vulnerable people not being able to get outside their homes because of the slippery ice and cold weather. The cities have been unable to respond well because they are not prepared for this type of winter….I’m also Pisces 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s not surprising to hear that you love trees, Silvia, or that you’re Pisces, too. I think we’ve both known for a while that we’re sisters in spirit. ❤ The threats trees have been facing are alarming and should be cause for thoughtful collective action on a local and international level. We are all paying the price even if many don't realize the impact on climate and quality of life.

      Ice winters are dreadful and dangerous, and I'm sure we'll see many more in the future. This one is particularly difficult here – more than an inch of sleet fell on Christmas, followed by snow and rain. The heavy, slushy mixture bonded to every exposed surface and froze over night. Trying to chip it is like hitting diamond with a toothpick in the below zero weather that has continued. There are so many things we're not prepared to deal with, but maybe more people will be forced to pay attention…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating and wonderful, Carol. I’ve always thought that the planet is sentient, or at the very least, much wiser than people. So posts like these make me want to jump up and yell, “I knew it!” 🙂 We have so much to relearn from the natural beings around us and it only requires paying attention. Sometimes I worry that we have lost an understanding of our place in and responsibility for this symbiotic organism of which we are a part. I believe that willow feels your joy and appreciation ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for such lovely comments, Diana. Thoughtful science can help us authenticate things we sense but haven’t been able to prove to skeptics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I absolutely love it when science does show the wondrous “hidden” miracles of other living, sentient beings. You may not know, but when I read your descriptions of nature, it’s so easy to see and feel the magic of moons and winds and seasons. Your words bring nature alive and give it wings for your fortunate readers. 🙂

      And I do love the willow and each bush and plant I encounter, but I often have to show that love through hard, sweaty work and action to help them survive. Even then, there are no guarantees for any of us… ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My current book series (in progress) is about a sentient planet that that subtly takes things into its own hands. It’s fantasy, so there are many fastastical elements, but the whole concept has been on my mind a lot lately – enough that I’m writing 4 books on the theme. 🙂

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  4. A lovely piece. The land our house and our neighbours’ houses are built on used to be a huge orchard and when we moved here we all still had one or two fruit trees in our gardens. However, some inevitably have had to come down and I mourn every time I hear a chainsaw at work. We had to take down a gorgeous pine tree that had rotted through the middle and several ash trees from behind our garage that were too tall and too spindly and were becoming dangerous in high winds. We were so sad, especially for the resident wood pigeons, but we still have our old apple tree and have planted 2 more plus two cherry trees. I love to watch the many varieties of birds that hang out there and listen to the beautiful songs of blackbirds and robins.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, and for sharing your experiences and insights, Chris. It is always sad to lose beloved trees. It’s heartening to hear that you have planted new ones to replace the ones that were lost and that birds have found a sanctuary to sing and rest.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Carol, love your post ❤ From a young age, I loved trees and miss the trees that brightened my world as a child growing up in Georgetown, Guyana. Based on the comments, I'm pleased to discover that I'm not alone in my spiritual connection with trees.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments, Rosaliene. I love the memories you shared about the trees of your childhood. We would all do well to learn from the steadfast patience and wisdom of trees, and it’s heartening to hear that so many people do.


  6. A lovely article and beautiful images. I have a special affinity with trees, Carol, as you’ve probably noticed from my photos!! I feel a deep connection with nature and I’m currently reading a book you may be interested in – “Speaking with Nature” [Sandra Ingerman and Llyn Roberts]. Thank you for an enriching article. Love and blessings ♥

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments, Izzy. I am always deeply touched by the peace and beauty of your photos. Your reverence and deep connection to nature shines in your poetry and photography. And thank you for suggesting a book to explore! I’ve put it on my list. Sending love and blessings to you, too. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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