At the end of every camping season, members of my family make the trip out to Deer Meadow Campground in Cook Forest to help close up my grandma's camp site, a process called "winterizing."
While the temperatures of this autumn season have been quite warm, and we've only faced the freezing point a few times so far, chilly nights remind us that the cold season isn't far from falling.
This week, I've been thinking a lot about the word winterizing. It was just this week, in fact, that it dawned on me that we don't have words like "summerizing" or "springizing." So, what's so special about our coldest season that it gets its own word?
What's so special about it is that, despite its beautiful snowfalls and the Christmas holiday nestled in its midst, winter is a cold, dark season.
Temperatures dip below the freezing point on a regular basis, and survival isn't a natural thing in the winter. Preparations are necessary to keep us and our belongings functioning throughout the winter in a safe and efficient manner.
Waterlines that aren't buried underground need to be prepared for the coming cold spells, or they will freeze, burst and flood our homes.
Winter tires need to be placed on our cars and heaters recharged, or we could find ourselves buried in a snow bank with cold hands and feet after hitting an ice patch.
Many of the things that we keep outside around our houses throughout the year are pulled inside in order to preserve them and their purposes â€” to help them â€ślive another dayâ€ť next year.
When spring and summer roll around, we pull these items back out, but we don't consider it summerizing; we just consider it returning to normalcy in our lives. Our vocabulary indicates that winter is an interruption to our routines.
I'm not saying that there aren't things we enjoy about winter â€” from building snowmen, to hitting the slopes or sipping hot cocoa, I love some of these winter activities as much as the next person. But the low temperatures and extra hours of darkness aren't things that many folks desire. They seem more like things we tolerate in order to experience the positive parts.
That's just the thing about winter, we have to tolerate it. I'm sure there are a few people out there who enjoy every little thing about this time of year, and yes, I agree that summer is too hot. But I don't hear a ton of excitement in the voices of folks in the stores while I'm shopping that they're going to have to turn the heating systems on and dress in layers soon.
Physically, we definitely have to prepare for winter, and the majority of us are pretty blessed to be in a situation where winter isn't a matter of survival â€” literally of life or death as some face â€” but rather, it's an inconvenience that we must learn to live with.
Emotionally, though, this time of year brings on new challenges, as well. A number of people suffer from seasonal pattern depression â€” a condition that inherently affects a person's ability to "look to the brighter side" when the weather is darker, colder and cloudier.
And in addition to this condition, many others may also have mixed emotions about the numerous holidays that come with this time of year.
Christmas used to be a favorite holiday of some who now see it as just another reminder of how much they miss a loved one.
Maybe it's not a matter of life or death â€” at least not literally â€” but suffering through an emotional winter can certainly make you feel as if you're hanging by a thread with everything you've got inside of you.
Winter can be such a difficult season in our lives, and as this winter season approaches, I know lots of folks who are hurting, who are cold, who are scared for their lives â€” whether their pain, uncomfortability and fear have anything to do with winter coming or not.
To all of those, and to anyone who is struggling without my knowing it, I simply say this: Prepare yourself as best you can, and hold on.
Winterization of the soul is something I, as someone who recognizes the work of seasonal pattern depression in his own life at times, have learned is essential.
As winter approaches, I begin praying and preparing my mind for the coming season.
Bad news in the summer can affect me completely differently than it does in the winter if I'm not prepared. It feels colder, graver and more severe in the winter months.
So, I must winterize myself in preparation for its dark sting.
It only makes sense to do this. Physically, we pull out our warmer clothes, ready our heating systems and throw a few extra blankets on our beds to prepare ourselves for winter.
We should do the same for our inner selves as we prepare for these seasons.
And once you're prepared for it â€” or as ready as you can get yourself â€” just keep telling yourself as the winter unfolds that you need to hang in there, because my favorite thing about winter is that, while it's here for a season, it too shall pass.
Spring will come and bring new life and revival to the creation and to my soul.
All I can do is hang in there, and I hope you can do the same.
Maybe winter doesn't typically have this sort of effect on you, but this year you're facing some different things than you have in the past and you're starting to feel the cold. Hang in there!
Maybe you'll feel just fine until one day, out of the blue, the cold spell hits. Ready yourself, and when it hits, hang in there!
And don't be afraid to talk to other people about the cold you feel, someone else who cares for you.
Because, as I can attest to, you're not alone in feeling this way this time of year. So, ready yourself, hang in there, and always remember, a warmer season is eventually coming.
Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit.