Written by Judith Parry – Toolbox Worker (staff)

Since our recent move to a village in rural Staffordshire, the Husband has taken to watching Countryfile. I think he believes it makes him more of an authentic country dweller, despite calling every plant he sees a weed and every bird a thrush. That said, I confess to being a bit of a fan of armchair farming myself, but in truth my agricultural expertise extends mostly to popping a few spring bulbs in the ground.

During one episode of our new viewing pleasure, the presenter mentioned a process called vernalisation. This tickled an ancient undergraduate memory from my days as a student of Biological Science, and took me to the fount of filling-the-gaps-in-half-remembered-facts known as Google. I rediscovered there that vernalisation, the word being taken from the Latin vernus “of the spring”, is a something which crops such as winter wheat need to undergo in order to flower well the following season.

It happens something like this. If these wheat seeds, sown in autumn, have not had the requisite amount of days below a certain low temperature, they go on to produce a poor crop. Conversely, if the seeds have experienced a prolonged period of deep cold during the dark days of winter, they will flower well once the days lengthen and the weather warms, eventually producing an abundant crop.

Now, I do love a good metaphor, and this biological process speaks volumes to me. Sometimes, such as in periods of grief and loss, we just want things to be over. We would prefer to fast forward through the cold, hard times, or to go around them completely, circumventing the process. I know there were times when this was true for me, when I did not want to engage with the pain and sorrow, did not want to let grief do its work. I discovered however that there are no shortcuts, not if I desired to grieve well. To undergo my own vernalisation. I found that in attempting to short-circuit winter, I risked stealing some of the abundance of spring.

That is not to say we have to like it, for who truly enjoys those cold, dark days of pain? Winter can be hard, cold and seemingly endless at times, but experience tells us that this too shall pass. Seasons come and go, in rhythms and cycles, and our spring returns again.

In the meantime, we have a choice: whether to seek to avoid winter by hiding in denial and evasion, or alternatively to face – even embrace – the sharp cold pain. The season of abundance will return, bringing with it sweet results of the lessons grief has taught us in the dark. In the meantime, our actions help determine how fruitful – or fruitless – this coming season will be.