This is No. 4 in The Motherhood Letters, a monthly feature by author Jessica Rios. Rooted in universal themes of motherhood, Jess shares the essence of her unique art of mothering through letter writing. You can learn more about Jess and her work in the author box below.
It’s cold and rainy outside and I’m sitting in a cafe in southern Sweden, writing to you. People here say this is the longest winter they remember. “It’s a whole month behind.” And for a native California girl like me, that’s a big deal. Not only have I’ve lived through an extra long Scandinavian winter — I still like myself on the other side! Seven months of cold and dark didn’t destroy my kind soul, even though plenty of days were spent feeling grumpy and praying to the sun… Come soon.
Making it through a Swedish winter is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. A new dear friend says, “It only takes people about 30 years to get used to it,” and laughs. My husband’s mother says, “You never get used to it.”
Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash
Why am I sharing this with you? Because we all go through tough things and somehow make it through. Amidst the rigor, we find ways to survive and find joy — many are simple reminders of things we already know yet need to hear again — and we can share these with each other.
What helped me make it through this winter? Lots of things, and one I want to name and thank profusely: Mother Nature.
On days when the sky felt oppressively dreary, I’d take a walk in Slottskogen (which means Castle Forest), the big wide open park in the middle of the city. As my thighs felt increased blood flow and my body remembered it wasn’t just made for daily routines, rain water slid through giant boulders, emerging out the other side in ever-changing frozen bursts of white.
Standing at a tram stop with subzero wind chill on my cheeks, I would grunt silently and then delight in how good it felt to be kissed by Mother Nature’s winter breath.
When ice covered the steep sidewalk and even good boots, attentive steps and the city-poured gravel didn’t prevent me from slipping and falling on my tailbone, I remembered that Mother Nature always has the last word. She is ever powerful, and it feels good to be held on her lap — even if I had to fall to get there.
waterfall, border of Sweden and Norway
In March, after months of enduring winter, our family took a two-night trip to the border of Norway where a giant waterfall remained half frozen. Looking at it from below, it was grand, glorious, almighty. Hiking up to the side, it became even bigger as I watched water slip underneath huge chunks of ice. It was the first frozen waterfall I’d ever seen. Deep awe. My boots gripped sturdy rocks on the hillside, my body was enlivened by the hike and the sight of moss covered tree trunks, and I forgot the strain of winter for a while. I felt grateful to have shelter where I could stay warm, and for well-made clothing that kept me comfortable and dry.
Nature is rejuvenation, nature is an invitation to humble gratitude. Nature is our home, our life support system, and for me this has never been more true than over the 2017-2018 winter.
When you don’t feel appreciated, when you’re exhausted, when your outlook is bleak and your self-care well has run shallow, remember the instant caress of our Mother planet.
With Great Love for each and every one of you,