Sunday, December 12, 2010

Musings on Winter

It's snowing outside again.  We got about 1/4 of an inch of rain/ice last night, and now there's about 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch of snow on top of that.  I can't complain though.  My relatives in North Dakota and Minnesota are reporting 20+ inches of blowing snow, and wind chills hovering around 0 Fahrenheit.  Winter has really begun at last.

I've always loved winter.  When I was in North Dakota or Minnesota, winter was the best time of year.  If you went outside, you could entertain yourself for hours with just a small shovel to dig a snow cave or a cardboard box to make a toboggan out of.  The equipment heavy summer sports of baseball and fishing pale next to this simplicity.  If you and a bunch of friends got bored with this, we could climb to the top of the 3 story piles of snow from the roads and play King-of-the-Hill for hours.  We'd come in soaked from snow melted into our mittens and snowmobile suits and sit in front of the TV wrapped in quilts to warm up.  Some of my favorite memories of childhood are of laying in a sunbeam on that avocado green shag rug during a sunny winter day.

I would sometimes dig a small depression in a snow bank, and then crawl in for a good sit.  With my head just below the crust of ice on the snow, all noise would be gone, and the world would be silent, if only for the few minutes it took my brothers and sisters to find me and jump in the hole on top of me.  Living with four loud siblings made these stolen moments of silence and solitude golden.

When I went to Russia, the summer and fall were pretty, but the pollution and just plain trash that littered the countryside made what was once beautiful forest and farmland a smelly mess.  After the first few snows and a good freeze, once you got past the road itself, everything was white and clean.  Even the soot covered monuments to communism in Saint Petersburg and Moscow had a whitewash of ice and snow for a few months.

Winter in Arizona was amazingly beautiful.  It would get down below freezing for a few weeks in December and January, and we would get a few snow storms down in the valley every so often.  Our post sat in the foothills of the Huachuca's, and there would almost always be snow on the mountains after October.  Those with four wheel drive could go up high enough to sled, and our children who had grown up in warm climates found the experience alien until they saw the joy on the faces of their parents after the first run down a hill.

Here in Kentucky, it gets chilly around Thanksgiving.  We usually get a cold snap for a few days in December, and we may even have a white Christmas on occasion.  January and February turn cold and gray, and Irish Woman starts to turn inward in an attempt to withstand the lack of solar stimulation. This is the time of year when our cooking begins with "Take a stick of butter and half a pound of bacon".  Comfort foods seem to bridge the sunlight gap that many here experience once the Winter Solstice swings around.

Winter to me will always mean clean, unbroken snow stretching out as far as the horizon on the prairie.  It will mean listening to a blizzard whine across the front of our house in Minot, or the feeling of my tears freezing as I sit in the front of an iceboat on the lake.  It means hot cups of cocoa and peanut butter toast after sledding.  It means standing at the bus stop with Girlie Bear listening to heavy Kentucky snow hiss as it hits the ground and grinds against what has already fallen.  These memories are what gets me through the heat and mugginess of summer. No season brings me alive like winter.


Old NFO said...

Since I grew up in the South, my memories are a 'bit' different on winter :-)

DaddyBear said...

40 below keeps out the riffraff! Seriously, a hard, cold winter has a beauty that just can't be matched.

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