Did you ever notice the way tomatoes taste in the winter? They are as hard as tennis balls, tasteless, and feel like Styrofoam in your mouth. Why? Because they are not in season! But we continue to buy them simply because they are available. The movement to buy locally and eat seasonally makes all kinds of sense. But it requires that we tune into nature’s cycles and adjust to the current season.

Back east, where I spent the first 30 years of my life, an occasional rainstorm was welcome and wonderful. We stood at the window and watched it come down. We made tea and curled up under a blanket with a book. The storm passed, the sun came out, and we went back to our normal, dry day activities. Not so in the Pacific Northwest where winter is one long rainstorm. Without plans to escape to warmer climes this winter, I have been bracing myself.

Every year, around mid-November, I dig out a piece of inspiration that helps me to embrace the season rather than brace myself against it. In so many words, it reminds me to pay attention to the rhythms of the season, and find a way to appreciate this wonderful, mystical time of year.

Start by eating seasonal foods. There are abundant winter vegetables and buying them means you are eating fresh, locally grown and/or organic produce. Anything else has either been manipulated by technology or shipped a great distance and therefore not fresh. A website I found called offers seasonality charts and recipes using seasonal foods.

Adjust your sleep schedule to coincide with the earlier sunsets and shorter days. Go to bed earlier and get the rest you need during this dark time of year. Even the seeds and bulbs planted in the fall are using this time of year to renew themselves for their grand entrance in the spring.

Turn off electronics, turn down the lights and turn inward to reflect on your dreams and wishes for the coming year. Formulate resolutions that will enable you, like your garden, to flower and grow come spring. Discover the immense capacity we all have for turning dark into light, bad into good, and for starting anew with a fresh approach.

Often in nature something has to die in order for something else to be born.

Something has to end in order for there to be a beginning. Which is why it is important to recognize that the tough times you experience, the darkness in your life is directly connected to the goodness and light that is to come.

Celebrate the season! There is so much to be thankful for! Decorate your home, string lights to counteract the dark. Share seasonal meals with family and friends.

But don’t forget to occasionally step away from the frenzy of the holidays. To notice winter’s natural beauty, to grow quiet and become aware of the life that is taking root underground and inside of us. We have the ability to discover the balance and growth naturally occurring within us as we prepare for the light that is sure to come. 

IRENE PANKE HOPKINS ( is a freelance writer, essayist and blogger. Recent work has appeared in 48° North magazine and Real Simple.