The Hidden Promise In Dormancy’s Heart

The ground has now frozen, cold and hard as iron. As recently as a couple of weeks ago that wasn’t so. Those days I worked outside nearly in shirtsleeves, clearing out and mulching the farm’s perennial beds, and grateful for the unseasonably mild weather. But winter is here now for sure, and the farm has gone dormant for the season.

I suppose we often equate dormancy with barrenness. And in Michigan, in the clutches of winter, it’s easy to look around and think, “barren, frozen wasteland.” But that’s not so. To be dormant is to be stilled yet full of life. Waiting. Preparing.

For example: This fall when I harvested the last of the crops from the field, I made sure not to leave it bare. Instead, I sowed a crop of winter wheat, and now little green shoots cover the ground. And though winter wheat does go dormant in the cold, it does not die, and when the air and soil warm even a little, it will start growing again. The roots of that cover crop will protect the soil over the winter, and so will protect all the microscopic life that teems in that soil. So while right now the field may appear barren, in truth it is full of life, paused for the season but ready to burst out come spring.

Doesn’t that sound familiar? I’ve tried not to go on at length about the pandemic in these newsletters this past year, because all of us already hear so much about it everywhere else. But this promise hidden in dormancy’s heart is too good a balm to be left unspoken—especially in the face of what we are told could be a grievous winter. Our lives have been dormant for so long, and we are all so tired of waiting, and while light does lie on the horizon, we find we must wait longer yet.

But spring will come. This dormancy will end. Life will burst though the thawing soil with new green growth. And won’t that be wonderful.