In a previous career chapter, I traveled across the U.S. for client work, which required a 92-mile commute to or from the airport. I drove early, late and in all weather conditions to avoid additional nights away from my kids and husband.
While I’ve seen the majestic beauty of the vast prairie at all hours of the day and night, I’ve also experienced the ugliness of prairie storms while navigating two-lane roads.
Even though the calendar says autumn, I’m stuck in a winter blizzard funk. I debated skipping this difficult topic and sharing pretty images from soybean harvest instead. After all, there are few things I enjoy more than riding in the combine with my dad. But then I wondered, does anyone else feel like they’re in a difficult season?
For the past 10 months, through numerous transitions and changes, I’ve felt like I’m driving on a dark road in whiteout conditions. You know — the kind of blizzard that requires a white-knuckle grip on the wheel and your eyes fixed to the road to make sure you stay the course as the wind tosses you around and you plow through snowdrifts.
Can you relate to feeling like your life is stuck in blizzard conditions? Maybe it’s due to the weariness from COVID-19 and impacts of financial struggles, a health diagnosis or condition, parenting through a pandemic, strained relationships, isolation, politics, elections or a host of other challenges left unnamed, but you face them.
I desperately want to get to the other side of this stuck-in-a-blizzard feeling and, as a wooden sign in my living room reads: “Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go."
Many times on those past lonely, treacherous drives, I questioned if I had made the right decision to drive home. I let worry consume me. With experience, I learned to talk to God on my drives. I knew the roads. I gained confidence, drove slowly, kept a dialogue going with God and found my way home through numerous winter storms and a few blizzards.
Only once did I miss a turn because of limited visibility — and actually, I didn’t see I had missed the turn; I felt the road change. Instead of a snow-covered paved road, I found myself on a prairie “road.” Thankfully, I didn’t get stuck. It was pitch black — not a single light from a town or farm could be seen. The wind was howling. I collected myself for a minute and then put my vehicle into reverse to backtrack to the pavement. I made the correct turn and continued along the road to lead me home.
This past weekend, I needed to retreat, a getaway to unplug. I need to let things go as my wooden sign says.
My husband, daughters and I hiked in Maplewood State Park, near Pelican Rapids, Minn. We first went on a known path that was easy and comfortable, the Hallaway Hill Overlook. Our daughter, Elizabeth, age 12, took photos.
Then we went to the other side of the park and found a lesser-traveled hiking path. We followed the map and found our way around a lake, walking close to four miles in all. The next day, Nathan and I returned for a longer, five to seven-mile hike, depending on which path we followed. We had to pay attention to marked signs, and Nathan kept a park map in his hand. During parts of our hike we couldn’t see the path ahead as fallen leaves completely covered the ground. I stopped several times to let go of the white-knuckled, driving-in-a-blizzard feeling that gripped me.
In the Minnesota woods, I let go of all that consumes me and focused on those immediately around me and the beauty of fall. I left my phone behind. No distractions. I felt like the tension of trying to find my way through a prairie blizzard lifted. I let go. I followed my husband’s hiking lead, talked with God in the woods and felt assurance for the season ahead.
Before a real winter storm hits, get outside. I recommend a state park hiking trail to find the beauty of autumn and let go.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.