By Katie Finch, Senior Nature Educator 

Fall is my favorite season, at least until the new growth and songs of spring arrive. Then spring is my favorite. That is until I can swim in the warm waters of summer. But winter has never been my favorite season. Perhaps until now.

In winter, my focus is usually on how to get outside and connect with nature despite the cold, gray, ice, and snow. My attitude is often one of bracing against winter. I endure the cold and keep going. Hiking, skiing, biking, running, and just being outside. All of this is fun. But it sometimes feels like I’m doing it to spite winter, not to embrace it.

This winter has felt different. Between being sick and a nagging injury, I’ve taken a break from many outside adventures. Having the extra time is certainly different, but I have also worked to give myself permission to slow down. 

This winter I have spent more time (but certainly not all) inside. And quiet time. I’ve gone to bed earlier and slept in later. I’ve enjoyed some good food and watched more movies. When I am outside, I move slower. Overall, I’ve done less. 

Despite having less of a physical connection in nature, I feel more in tune with the natural world this year. There are a lot of ways to connect with the natural world that match one’s own ability, interest, and access. One way is to live at the pace and rhythm of the seasons.

Winter, in our climate and region, is a time of slowing down. Many plants and animals have stored up energy in their roots, bodies, or burrows and hunker down. A winter landscape feels still. A burrow cozy. For those creatures that are still active, there is much less growing and more conserving. It is this rest and conserving that I mimic.    

I think it has been easier to allow myself to rest this year because I have felt the benefits of it. I recover so much quicker from a cold when I sleep more. In preparing for an endurance race, I perform better if I do less the day or two before. I’ve known this for a long time. It is a well-studied fact, but it is another thing to feel this truth for yourself.

Rest is critical to the survival of all living things. Groundhogs survive the winter by sleeping right through it. And some things need a rest in the cold. There are seeds that need to experience cold before being able to sprout. It is critical to us too.  

Photo by Katie Finch

There’s a part of me that, despite everything I’ve just written, thinks rest sounds lazy, unproductive, and boring. Nevertheless, I need to remind myself that I’m resting from something. I have been busy, productive, and active. That faster time will come around again. Winter does not last forever. The seasons will change. The tempo will pick up. For now, I am working to see winter’s slow pace as a gift. 

Resting leaves time for reflection on what we have done. Many of our celebrations this time of year have a reflective component to them. I attended a winter solstice celebration this year at a friend’s house. On the longest night of the year, we were prompted with thoughts of cleansing and renewal. Gathered around a fire, we all wrote down something we wanted to let go of ¾a behavior, practice, or feeling. We then folded our papers up and threw them into the fire, the smoke carrying our intentions upwards and out into the world. 

It’s not unlike the practice of making New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions get a bad rep, often being associated with unrealistic (and sometimes unhealthy) goals that we don’t keep past the third week of January. 

I’ve always liked beginnings. They are a fresh start, a clean edge in which to build from. Both the solstice and resolution practice have a shared goal of helping us grow into more of who we want to be. We let in more of whatever we determine as “the good stuff” just as the darkness is receding in our hemisphere and the Earth turns back towards the sun.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if our human world stopped to hibernate, or at least to rest together. But it doesn’t, and not everything in the natural world quits for the winter. So says the Blue Jays and chickadees eagerly feeding from the feeders in the snow. 

Perhaps there is a way to find a winter break, each in our own way and our own time, to embrace even a little of the stillness of winter. Outside or inside.  

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk and birds of prey can be viewed anytime the trails are open. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at or by calling (716) 569-2345.