Time with friends and family can defeat winter blues


By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk

Sometimes as autumn falls deeper into itself, my spirit dips also. Those glorious days of Indian summer are now a distant memory and what remain are the bare bones of nature.

That first frost kills. And from one day to the next, everything has changed. I feel the loss of green things and as I walk through the woods, I smell the earthiness of fallen leaves, the rotting of what is left. It leaves me with the painful reminders of what I have lost.

I find a big bag of giant daffodil bulbs at the store and after planting some in my yard, I take a trip to the cemetery with my mother to visit my father’s grave and plant a few there. Suddenly memories surface. Has it really been four years since you left, Papa?

I know those bulbs, though dormant now and seemingly dead, will flower in the spring. This, then, is the other reminder: that life is a cycle of living and dying. What is now a loss will also be a gain. My father will not come back but I am alive and what he taught me continues to guide me.

So as winter continues its inevitable progression, as the dark takes hold and the cold descends, I cling to that hope, that nature will come back to life. Meantime, I will hibernate and reflect upon my life so when spring comes around, I will be ready to seize the day.

I also think about what I can do to make the days lighter and brighter. I get out daily for a walk in the daylight to keep my spirit bright. I make food that feeds both my body and my spirit to keep me balanced. I keep my hands active so my mind does not get stuck in the winter doldrums. Spending time with good friends and family also warms my heart.

So I am prepared for the onslaught. I even look forward to it. And as I go about here and there, I try to treasure these short days and long nights. And when spring reappears, I will face it with renewed energy.

One of my go-to recipes with the holidays right around the corner is this one, from my mother-in-law. Made with sweet potatoes, they are full of vitamins A and C, good immunity boosters, and sure to lift your mood.

Sweet Potato Croquettes
Serves 8


  • 5 large sweet potatoes (use the yellow skinned ones if you can find them because they are less watery)
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups cracker crumbs
  • some olive oil


  1. Cook the sweet potatoes until soft. Peel, then mash with the butter and salt and pepper.
  2. Drop in spoonfuls on a cookie sheet. Let cool. Shape into croquettes. Dip in egg, then crumbs. Refrigerate for several hours.
  3. Fry in olive oil on all sides until brown.
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