A Blooming Amaryllis, Hibernation and Spring by Nancy Mugele

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In December, I received an amaryllis bulb as a Christmas gift from a Kent School Kindergarten student. Over the years I have not had much luck with winter flowering bulbs like amaryllis and paperwhites, so I almost did not even open the box. I kept it in my laundry room for two weeks until I summoned up enough courage to pot the bulb. Carefully nurtured in a sunny spot on my kitchen counter, it has seemingly been brought back from hibernation. I am now amazed by the breathtaking beauty and bounty from this mighty bulb. There is a brightness in my kitchen from its simple elegance, and gazing at its red blooms gives me hope for the warmth and magic of spring.

I have also literally watched the Chester River come back from its forced hibernation – released and flowing freely twice this month during our January freeze and thaw. Though beautiful to look at, both the amaryllis and the cold river make me yearn for spring in the still-early part of this winter.

Animals have it right. They sleep for long periods of time in the dreary, cold winter and awaken in the spring. I used to think that the winter was a very good time for humans to hibernate as well. Living and working in New York City in the 1980s, walking 20 blocks to and from my advertising job was miserable in the dead of winter. In general, New Yorkers don’t see each other as they fast-walk on the sidewalks, but in the winter, bundled up in big coats and hats, people definitely ignore each other. It was a cold existence during the winter months, and it was in those months that I began to hibernate with books.

Winter, even more than summer, signals reading time to me and the grey days of February always make me yearn for hot tea and a good book – even when I am at work. During D.E.A.R.S. (Drop Everything And Read Silently) time at Kent School, I read, too. This month I have selected Brene Brown’s newest Braving the Wilderness – a recommendation from the Reese Witherspoon Book Club – about the practices of true belonging and who we really are in our hearts.

In my mother daughter book club with Jenna we have most recently been reading about the great wars in The Nightingale, The Alice Network, The Zookeeper’s Wife and next up Lilac Girls. In The Zookeeper’s Wife, a true account of Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski who save more than 300 Jewish refugees from the Nazis by hiding them in their zoo, Antonina wondered if humans viewed the war days in the same way as wintering animals, as “a sort of hibernation of the spirit, when ideas, knowledge, science, enthusiasm for work, understanding, love – all accumulate inside, where nobody can take them from us.” Her journal entry resonated with me.

Reading helps us imagine a time and place different from the one in which we sit and these recent novels help us to experience the pain of war. I do believe it must have been like “hibernation of the spirit,” especially for those living under the rule of their oppressor. Thankfully, though, no one can ever take away the sacred feelings of our mind and heart.

Reading (and writing!) brings joy to the soul and this winter it has become a family affair. Jim is reading Ali, one of 2017’s top ten books, and the biography of a sports figure who intrigued him as a boy and whom he met on an airplane after we were married. Kelsy, who prefers mysteries, is reading Murder in Music City about her home city of Nashville and our niece Amanda is reading The Last Mrs. Parrish – also a Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection. James is reading The River in Denver. All of these selections inspire us during our winter hibernation.

Am looking for signs of spring and my next book…

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

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