For most of my adult life, it has been the same story whenever winter comes around. People griping about snowfall and storms, cold temperatures leaving everyone sour, the “dirty trick” of it leaving and briefly return a week later. You would think I lived in Texas by the way my peers acted, losing their minds after a 1/2 inch falls and stays.
Growing up on a large plot of woodland, winter for me meant snowforts and hot chocolate breaks and sledding at my grampa’s next door. I can see my dad on our riding mower plowing the 200m driveway, in his 80’s one piece navy snowsuit and monstrous boots. Those boots were a favorite sleeping place for our St. Bernard Wolfgang when he was a pup. And I don’t mean just as a dog bed–he literally once slept IN them, vertically, slumped over like a tired flower in a vase. One year, we tried training Wolfgang to live up to his rescue dog ancestry. But in the minds of four young children, putting the smallest under a sled and then a pile of snow before telling a 200 lb dog to seek is the way to go.
Never mind that the other three went inside when called for hot chocolate and left me wondering if our plan had worked.
Highschool was hectic with all my activities and sports. I didn’t get much time to enjoy winter fully, especially with my siblings off in college, though I did make sure to wander the woods once in a while, and bask in the serenity that even a couple inches brings to the land. Lawrence University had a beautiful campus to begin with, and winter only made it more so. I’d realize my love of playing Ultimate in the snow at midnight (Snultimate) after meeting a girl who’d one day become my Roomie and friend for life. Some nights the scenery would call to the itch in my veins, so I’d cover up and meander the pathways, soaking up all that light could coax from the shadows or how it reflected off the snow. One such venture yielded a picture of our Main Hall with a bench and a globe of snowy fireflies around its lamppost. A favorite of mine to date.
Literature equates winter with death, the Long Sleep when Nature retreats for a time the be born again in spring. Animals have stocked up and prepared for hibernation, dogs and horses have winter coats, flora hunkers down to wait out its return several months away. If humans were just meant to be whiny about it, perhaps we should’ve done the same. The bottom line, my fellow Midwesterners, is that it comes every single year. We KNOW it will. Why bother being cranky and depressed? As sure as the sun rises, we will have to shovel driveways and sidewalks, be more cautious on the roads, and fight harsh winds while walking, and get used to frozen nose hairs on the worst days. I’m stumped at why most of us continue to be negative about something so unavoidable.
Maybe water does really retain memory, and therefore I like winter so much because it reminds me of the underside of a sled, following the mystery of coyote tracks, and the soft clicking symphony as I walked our long driveway in solitude. To be fair, I love all seasons–sometimes for memories, some times for the new ones made–so I don’t think that theory cuts it. I do know, however, that thousands of people pass the winter complaining and being grouchy (insert usual disclaimer about understanding losing a love one during winter time and other terrible memories) and feel if you know the reason such an attitude exists, you can just as easily fight it.
Find the wonderland we remember as kids. Take time to appreciate the snowflakes that fall for thousands of miles at a snail’s pace. Listen to how the staggering commotion of the human world is muted by a couple inches of frozen water molecules. Discover how it reminds us that all things, good or bad, might be out of our control, but how we react to them is decided absolutely on our own.