Category Archives: Minnesota winter

Oh how I love Not-Winter!

We are currently experiencing a new season in Minnesota. I call it Not-Winter. It isn’t late enough or warm enough to be spring, and yet the grass is showing; the temps have come up; the sounds of dripping water can be heard near and far; hope is in the air!

You must understand that winters in Minnesota are generally brutal. BRUTAL. Even this year, it started snowing in early November. Usually, at this point in the season, we are buried under at least a foot of snowpack and any ventures outdoors require hats and gloves and scarves and as little exposed skin as possible. Not this year! I haven’t worn a hat in at least a week and gloves even longer.

Now, I am not deceived. I know it isn’t really over. I know my beautiful, hopeful, spring-indicating dirt will be covered again by snow, but this extended break has made this winter so much more bearable.

It’s Not-Winter! And it might be my favorite Minnesota season ever!

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Not-Winter, 2015

Strolling

Look! No coat!

It was unusually warm today in the Twin Cities. I think it hit almost 40 degrees. That is REALLY warm for January. There have been winters here where the temperature didn’t hit 40 til April and the kids and I would celebrate by throwing off our coats, dragging out the lawn chairs and bicycles, and hanging on the driveway all afternoon. A week ago I was posting pictures on facebook about the frost that formed on my scarf in the minus 25 degree wind chills. This week I made that same walk, from my car to my office (about eight city blocks) without any jacket and only wearing a button down shirt. These are crazy times.

Today after work on my way back to the car it was a little cooler so I did put my jacket back on. Half way through the walk I noticed something. I was quite relaxed and strolling. I never stroll these days. I thought about it. Winter makes me hurry. I hurry from the house to the car, from the car to the office, from the office to the car, all the while frantically muttering, “I’m so cold. I’m soooo COLD!”. It is as though I am always running from the weather; from the biting wind that first brings a sting to your ears that is nearly unbearable and then numbness to your extremities that takes many minutes, once inside, from which to recover. Yes, I run from winter.

This winter I made a list of all the things I wanted to do or to try, a bucket list of sorts. Unfortunately, the milder conditions and lack of snow have thwarted my efforts a bit (so strange to write that), but I know it will get cold again and the brutal wind from the North will come to find us. So, I am adding to my bucket list to stop running and to stroll more. This may require better clothing choices, as my one friend would inform me. But I hope to do so, so I won’t have to feel like I am rushing all the time. I left a life of hurry behind when I moved to the Midwest. I’d like to not live that way again just because of the weather. No, I plan to look Old Man Winter right in the eyes and tell him, “I WON’T RUN ANYMORE!!” Then, I’ll take his hand, and stroll with him (or at least walk a little more slowly), and see what there is to see.

Seasons Change

I have a very brave friend whom I have known since kindergarten. She recently shared a post on facebook about her struggle with anxiety. Instead of battling alone, she allowed us, her friends, in on her battle. Well, every year around this time I begin my own battle. Call it winter blues, call it seasonal affective disorder, either way it doesn’t matter. I just know that every year I feel this shift and I usually go it alone. It winds up coming across as winter-hate or Minnesota-hate through my veiled vaguebook posts. But, this year I am taking a different approach. You are all my friends, whether through facebook or my blog readers, and I thought that this year I would share my struggles as they occur so that you can understand where I am at and perhaps someone out there might even be able to relate. But mostly, I am tired of battling alone. Life takes a village. If that makes me sound like a liberal, maybe I am. But I know this, no man is an island. And although our libertarian roots might tell us differently, my human-ness has not allowed me to stand alone. So here I am to share my burden, pass me by or pick some up and carry it. Whatever you choose, I have done myself some measure of good in sharing it at all.

It begins every October. I usually don’t realize what is happening, but by the middle of the month I wind up feeling really sorrowful and full of melancholy. I am usually life overflowing, but in October I feel the overflow slow to a trickle. I have less and less extra of myself to give and feel needy for more and more emotional input. It becomes challenging to discern between what is actual sorrow and difficulties, and what is just being over-dramatized by my emotional vacuum. I do a good job of putting on a happy face because that is how I want to feel and what good will it do to mope around and bring everyone around me down with me? And don’t get me wrong, in October it comes more in waves, so there is still plenty of actual happiness to support that smile.

I start to wake up in the morning with knots in my stomach. I feel anxious. There is nothing actually to be anxious about. Sometimes I search through my circumstances to try to find some way to explain what I am feeling, attach the anxiety to something that makes sense. But mostly, it is just a nebulous blob of unrest residing in my stomach. I often feel like a turtle who wants to shrink back into his shell. Whereas the rest of the seasons I greet the day! In October all I want to do is pull the covers over my head and have someone tell me when it is April.

Around this time the trees go dormant. Quite quickly here in Minnesota we go from a wondrous display of autumn to what I call “winter trees”; gray and brown collections of empty branches, sticks, for as far as the eye can see. Sometimes a few trees will hold onto their leaves and you will see one faded gold tree in a sea of brown and gray. I laugh because that tree is like me, holding on by the skin of my teeth, grasping on by the tips of my finger nails to spring and summer and early fall. But eventually the trees lose the battle, and so do I. And winter comes again.

In October I find myself in anxious anticipation of winter. This may sound like a good thing to some, but this is not a good version of anticipation. I am waiting. Waiting for the snow to fall. Waiting for the white to rob my world of color. Waiting to feel cold all the time. I find that in some ways October and November are worse months for me than just the all-out winter months because of my nature. I am a realist. I deal better with facts, and so I feel like once winter arrives I am better equipped to deal with it than I am to deal with the worry about it coming. So in October and November I feel like I am always on the edge of my seat, waiting for something bad to happen. This something is winter.

I have friends who don’t mind winter, I even have a few who like winter and one who is going to throw a “Learn to Love the Snow” party for me. A week or so back I was riding in the car with some of these friends and I observed that the trees were suddenly winter trees. We had experienced a blustery day that had prematurely stripped many of the trees of their autumn glory. I felt a little panicked because those trees are harbingers. I look for harbingers around this time, signals, that it’s coooooommmmming. And as I observed the winter trees and expressed my panic about winter, my friend said, “See, and life doesn’t stop. It keeps going.” And at any other time during the year this is the advice I give in many situations. But my October perspective gets so skewed that I forget my own good advice. So, yes friend, thank you for the reminder.

I am going to engage in more self-talk this winter season. Instead of just listening to my inner voice; to the sorrow, the sadness, the anxiety. I am going to do more talking to myself and saying those words. Life doesn’t stop in winter, the world keeps turning, seasons change, but they also change back. Today is a good day, there are many good things happening and many great people around, adventures to be had, things to hear and learn. The sun is even shining. One moment at a time through this season. And maybe some of your voices can remind me of these things too. 🙂 I am also thinking of getting a light box. I will keep you posted.

Emerge

Minnesota’s Spring Sky

I remember sitting on the concrete at the kids’ school on a mid-November morning, with the sun shining down on me, feeling not the warmth in the air, but the absence of cold. I sat there thinking, “This is probably the last time I will feel warm outside for 5 months.” A few days later, it snowed, covering all the still-green grass in white. Winter came again.

Today we went for a bike ride. And in our very hilly neighborhood, with one kid still using training wheels, we invariably wind up riding around the school parking lot at the end of our ride. It is one of the only flat areas near us and provides a nice cool-down after climbing the neighborhood hills. I sat again on the concrete today. Actually I laid on the concrete on my back, the roughness of the sidewalk made acceptable by the warmth that was emanating from it. I stared up into the sky feeling the warm spring sun kiss my skin as it fought to peer out from behind the gray clouds. I laid there very still, concentrating on all my senses, and thinking about the breeze that was hitting my face. I became aware of the fact that there was no cold slap to it. There was actually almost an edge of warmth to the air and I realized that, once again, I have emerged from winter.

It is, for me, a victory. I feel winter so deeply, the sorrow, the dulling of my senses, the dread. So when spring arrives, I am keenly aware of the fact that I come alive. Every year my gardens seem like a miracle all over again. I can’t understand how such delicate creations that need to be tended so carefully during the summer can possibly survive the harshness of the winters here. And yet, every year they emerge, just as I do. Yes, for me when spring comes all things really feel new, and fresh, and beautiful.

It is a roller coaster though, to experience such extremes of emotion every year and it leaves me asking, how many years do I want to do this? But then I wonder, would I really be better off in a place that leaves me feeling monotonously warm and relatively cheerful all year? Perhaps the contrast between how I feel in winter in Minnesota and how I feel in spring and summer is actually a good thing. Whether I prefer it or not, I cannot argue with the fact that it provides me with sharp edges to my emotions. The contrast gives me an appreciation for the fact that yes, winter always comes again, but so does spring, and it reminds me that there is, actually, always hope.

Loss of Momentum

I am definitely suffering from a loss of my “Get through the winter” momentum.  My first mistake was going away in December to a warmer place. Vacations don’t refresh me, they set me up for failure.  Although I enjoy them while I am there, I come back feeling worse about having to come back to winter than I would have felt if I had never left.  A few weeks after that trip I finally got back in the winter groove, only to find myself enjoying 40 and 50 degree days for a week and completely getting me out of the winter mindset.  Add that to our late February trip up north to a tropical themed water park and here I am, feeling that loss of momentum.

This is when winter really starts to hit me hard.  Now is when my friends in Jersey begin to emerge from the doldrums.  They are prepping their gardens, getting compost, walking on the boardwalks, pulling out the bikes and the deck furniture, enjoying 60 degree days every now and again. Their crocuses and spring bulbs are emerging from the soil and the winter pansies will be making their appearance at garden centers any day now.  And here I am, in Minneapolis, my gardens buried in a 2 foot snow pack, bulbs tucked away in the frozen ground, slush and ice still coating the streets and no green to be seen anywhere.  And, as if adding insult to injury, it seems as though as soon as we get any kind of clearing or melt, it snows again, only to start the process over.

I think if winter ended right now, I would be ok.  It would have been difficult and snowy, but I would be able to emerge still standing.  It is these next few weeks, when snow becomes a distant memory for my more-southern-residing counterparts, that I really get beaten down.  And by the end I feel like I am just barely crawling along, holding up a flag of surrender, looking for rescue from the seemingly interminable winter.

I felt it start to creep in today.  I looked out my window at the University of Minnesota and saw nothing but gray. I took a deep breath and knew, I’m entering that end of winter tunnel.  If I can just fight for joy these last few weeks, I know that on the other side I will find myself again, and I will have made it through this, my fourth winter…

Winter’s Reprieve: A curse or a blessing?

We just came off of one of the most beautiful February weeks I have experienced in Minnesota.  It began last Sunday and continued through Thursday with temps hitting the high 40’s and low 50’s every day.  For most of the week we wore light jackets and allowed our hats and gloves to get lost in a mound of forgotten items, the way we do in spring.  Now, you know from my previous posts, that I abhor winter.  Truly, it isn’t only the snow and cold. Those are inconvenient and not my choice weather conditions, but I feel certain I could handle them if winter didn’t make me FEEL so different.  I literally feel like a piece of me dies off in winter, leaving this empty hole that only feels filled again when the summer sun returns and warms my soul.  Last week that piece returned. I felt the way I normally feel at the end of April, like I came alive.  My laughter returned to me, bringing with it a lightness in my being that I usually experience only when winter’s gray has passed.

Yesterday, I walked out my front door and was slapped in the face by that stinging pain that comes with a blast of Arctic air.  My brow assumed its formerly furrowed position and I prepped for what feels like the impending doom of potentially 2 more months. I woke up this morning in my bed, not wanting to get up because I could feel the chill in the air.  And while the sun beamed behind my curtains, I knew the truth.  It’s frigorific out there.

Last night the weatherman warned of 4-6 inches of snow we are to receive on Sunday into Monday. Man. I knew it wasn’t over.  My friend, who encourages me a lot in winter, warned that it wasn’t over, but my body is so ready for it to be done.  I don’t want to be cold again. And last week was like a drink of sanity, which has now been taken away by Old Man Winter.  My guard has been let down, and now I have to fight to get it back up.  Which leaves me asking, “Was it really worth it?”  Was that little reprieve worth the sorrow of having to re-enter the tunnel of gloom, aka winter?  One friend says, “Well, it was better to have loved and lost…”, but I’m not so sure. The reality of the difference between my winter self and my spring/summer self has been brought into sharp relief as a result of winter’s brief reprieve, and I don’t like that difference one bit.