When I was in college, one of my classmates was a returning student. Married and with children, she sought to finish her degree as a matter of personal growth even as she fought a serious illness.
This photo on Flickr reminded me of a poem she wrote one year for the school's literary magazine. She described a tree in winter, dormant, unchallenged, waiting. "How safe" she noted.
She chose not to be safe, not to settle, not to give up. Even though she was fighting illness, she traveled, finished her degree and generally raged against the dying of the light. She was anything but a tree in winter.
We lost touch after school. Years later, I was manning a booth at some function or other and bumped into her daughter, who told me she'd died a couple of years before.
It was too early, of course, but she made good use of her years.
And she made it possible for me to look at a quiescent, leafless tree on a cold gray landscape and think of life.