Our long winter is coming on article about what Laura Ingalls Wilder can teach us about a COVID-19 winter

The Long Winter

I’m thinking we best get ready now.

The chipmunks gather acorns, not out of panic, but simply to be prepared. They work ahead, so when winter comes, they have what they need.

Maybe we can all learn from the chipmunks.


Folks have been saying a prolific number of acorns have been dropping from the oak trees this fall, indicating a cold winter ahead.

A cold winter in the midst of a pandemic.

It reminds me of the book I read when I was a small child: The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

In the book, Laura’s father notices the extra thickness of the badger’s nest in the autumn. Other signs are gathered to confirm that the winter would be unprecedented in its harshness

Pa Ingalls and his family prepared for the long winter.

I’m thinkin’ we best get ready. Ready for this winter–different than any other winter in our lifetime.

We have to find creative ways of living in these unusual times. Winnipeggers are a tough lot. We’ve always found ways to get through the tough circumstances that winter annually throws at us.

But here’s the rub: Things that historically we’ve used to cope with winter won’t be realistic for us at all, or only with such significant modification they won’t be at all the same:

  • dinner out with friends
  • a movie out with a buddy
  • going over to a friend’s house for The Bachelor, Grey’s Anatomy, the hockey game or the monthly book club–which was always just really an excuse to be together anyway
  • regular trips to the gym
  • a week’s escape from the cold to a hot spot with sandy beaches–gosh, anticipating that week could sustain a person for a whole winter
  • a weekly trip to the mosque, synagogue or church
  • even wandering around a shopping mall, maybe to shop–or maybe just to get out of the house and walk without one’s shoulders in one’s ears 🙂

The normal things we have always done to cope with winter won’t be possible while we also must cope with the added burden of COVID-19.

This struggle to get through winter is real and we need to talk about it, out loud, with each other, to get through it:

The writing is on the wall–as fall as had its onset, the numbers infected with COVID-19 have gone up.

We’re will get through this winter only with a completely different set of coping strategies that we’ve ever gotten through any winter before.

I’m a planner–I’ve been thinking ahead to winter and wondering. Wondering how we will get through it, when COVID-19 was hard these last months without winter.

And in an odd way, thinking about the upcoming winter in light of Laura Ingalls, her family, and all of those in her generation has helped. Think about it:

  • They experienced isolation in small villages and homesteads.
  • Many had travelled west after saying good-bye to family in the east–knowing they would likely never see them again.
  • They had no phones, texts, or screens of any kind
  • When the trains stopped, they ran out of supplies
  • Their homes had no central plumbing or central heat
  • They only had shovels to clear snow. No modern snow removal machinery.

All of these harsh, isolating factors were real–and Laura Ingalls and her community made it through.

It wasn’t easy, but the pioneers made it through. The indigenous folk in the area–well, they had been making it through for centuries.

I read and re-read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was a little girl–I would almost say she became a friend of mine. We hung out together so much when I was young, I rather felt like I knew her.

I can almost Laura whispering to me across the decades and the miles:

It won’t be easy to make it through your long winter. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is make it through my long winter. I often wondered if I would make it through.

But Pa wouldn’t give up. When I wanted to, he wouldn’t let me. He was strong when I couldn’t be. That’s what we do during hard times–we hold each other up when we get discouraged.

You will get discouraged. Of course you will. I did. You will think you won’t get through it. I did.

We knew that winter would be hard. And it was. And then it got harder. When we ran out of food, it got harder yet.

The discouragement is part of the hard of the long winter. Expect it to be hard. Expect the discouragement.

When there is a sunny day, go outside, even if it is cold. If someone cracks a joke, listen carefully so as to enjoy it. Revel in the chuckles of others–even in the midst of the hard. Look for the little things to make it through. Don’t expect to be wildly invigorated by this winter. It’s not realistic to sail through it.

Just make it through.

You will get through this. We made it through our long hard winter. You will too. I promise you, we can do hard things. I didn’t think we would make it back then–but we did. You will make it too.

Laura Ingalls Wilder (in my wildest imagination)

Laura’s pa prepared them. He moved the family above the store in town and that foresight may well have saved their lives.

Pa has been inspiring me.

I’ve been thinking: “What can I do to get through our long winter?”

I’m gonna have to get through this winter using strategies unlike any other. I’ve been thinking, and planning and getting a few other ideas ready.

We all will.

Laura Ingalls, Pa Ingalls and the rest of them got through this winter.

The winter quit before the Ingalls did.

If the Ingalls can get through their long winter, so can we.

Spring will come. It always comes.

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