Participating in the Winter Drama

By Aurora Sarchet

Have you ever watched a play? If you enjoy theater, you may remember the expectant feeling of settling into the plush seats and watching the first scene open. The colorful costumes and skillful actors capture your imagination, drawing you into their story; you find yourself laughing, scared, and surprised by turns as the narrative begins to unfold. Then, the lights go down, and the scene changes. The actors rush off to switch costumes, and the stagehands hurry around the semi-dark platform, shifting scenery and trying not to trip over forgotten props. They move quickly and carefully, setting the stage for the next location, the next segment of the story.

In the drama of the year, maybe winter is this in-between time. Everything seems to be quiet, empty, asleep – but important things are happening, even if most of them are behind the scenes. Old leaves are decaying underfoot, returning nutrients to the soil. Caterpillars are changing their costumes backstage, preparing for their dramatic re-entry as butterflies. And, of course, there are the cold-weather stagehands: winter birds like chickadees flutter everywhere, searching for forgotten seeds and hidden insects. Rabbits and other small animals are foraging hungrily; when it snows, they leave delicate trails behind them.

Engaging black-capped Chickadees are a common winter bird.

Rabbits leave a distinctive pattern of footprints.

Winter is a time for exploration. On snowy days, you can get to know the wildlife in your area. You may not see them, but, just like you, your wild neighbors leave footprints. Check your local library for a book on wildlife tracks, such as A Field Guide to Animal Tracks from the Peterson Field Guide Series. Tracks can tell you a lot about the wildlife in your area and what they are doing. No snow? Another activity for winter days is a cleanup expedition. Leafless bushes and shrubs make litter easier to spot. Bring a bag or container and find trash and recyclables to clean up along a trail.

In B.C., winter provides an opportunity for important yardwork as you maintain and enhance your backyard ecosystem. It is a good time of year for removing invasive plants and planting native ones. You can enrich your soil by leaving fallen leaves to decompose; leaving branches and leaves on the ground may also provide winter habitat for small animals and insects. If you feed birds, make sure to refill your feeders often; birds will become dependent on your feeder and can struggle to find enough food if you forget to fill it. This is especially true for the delicate Anna’s Hummingbird, which is a frequent visitor at feeders. It is important to keep the liquid hummingbird feeders from freezing during the winter, as these little birds depend on the sugar-water to survive.

The Anna’s Hummingbird has lovely green-gold plumage. Males have stunning red throats.

A Rocha interns dress warmly while in the field.

Winter is also an energy inefficient season; days are short, and freezing temperatures mean that more energy is needed to keep warm. This is why some animals hibernate to conserve energy or grow thick winter coats. People don’t hibernate, of course, but like any other mammal, we need to maintain our body temperature within a very narrow range to be happy and healthy. We often do this by cranking up our thermostats. Additionally, we compensate for short winter days with electric lights. To lessen the amount of energy we use in the winter, we can weatherize our homes, keep the thermostat at a reasonable level, wear warm clothing, and choose energy-saving lightbulbs such as LEDs.

Winter is a time of waiting, of preparation, and of new beginnings. It is an integral part of the yearly drama, and a part that we can participate in as we enjoy and care for God’s creation in thoughtful ways. It is also the time we remember the new beginning, the promise and hope that the birth of Jesus brought.  So many good things start out small and quiet, in the waiting time between scenes. May your winter adventures be rewarding and fun!

6 Ways to Participate in the Winter Drama

  1. Learn more about local wildlife by identifying their tracks with a book on wildlife tracks.
  2. Play #trashtag and clean up litter along a trail in your area.
  3. Help restore biodiversity by removing invasive plants and planting native ones.
  4. Enrich your soil by leaving leaves and branches to decompose and provide habitat.
  5. Take care of birds by being consistent with filling bird feeders.
  6. Conserve energy by weatherizing your home, dressing warmly, and using energy-saving lightbulbs.

Aurora Sarchet is a volunteer attending Trinity Western University who loves exploring God’s creation year-round.