Wilderness in the Wisconsin Winter

Heidi Strand,

Executive Director New Vision Wilderness North Woods

Heidi StrandEvery New Year I gift myself with a new 1000 piece puzzle and 4 paper white bulbs. During the third week of every January I look at the incomplete puzzle taking up space on my kitchen table and marvel at the paper white bulbs, as they have been planted in dark rich soil and placed in the sun. They are growing tall and lean and beginning to sprout white flowers.
Yesterday one of the teens in our program asked me what my favorite part of winter in Wisconsin is. “Puzzles and paper whites” was my response. I went on to explain that on January 1 I emptied the contents of a colorful cardboard box, with the promise of its contents being assembled into a panoramic image of the migration of butterflies. My plan to complete the puzzle always starts the same – dig out the edge pieces and create the boundaries, the frame. Next, choose a color, assemble the pieces, and continue. Visitors to my home are welcome (and often expected) to help me put my puzzle together. Steaming pots of hot tea are steeped, hours of conversation, problem solving, and comfortable silence are always indulged in.

As I shared story of this year’s puzzle and my frustration with having 2 missing edge pieces and 3 large patches of nothing put together, the teen leaned in and shared, “My journey here at NVW is like your puzzle. I figured out that my parents are like the edge pieces and it’s really up to me to ask for help to put the pieces together so they make sense.” I asked him when he figured that out. He told me it was when he was strapping on his snowshoes on a bright sunny day, surrounded by the silent white snow.
When I went home last night and looked at the (still) unfinished puzzle in the middle of my kitchen table I took inspiration from the teen, put the kettle on the stove to boil, and called a friend to share that I needed help with the purple section of the butterfly migration.

The next time I check in with this client I will show him a picture of my “puzzle in process” and look forward to learning more about the process of his own puzzle – his journey. I will also show him a picture of my beautifully bloomed paper white bulbs.

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