Tag Archives: 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!

IMG_1777
Not-Winter, 2015

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.

Being Outside, Inside…

Well, it’s March. I can’t explain to you how much March in Minnesota sucks, for lack of a better word. While 3/4 of the country is beginning to emerge from winter and enter spring, we are merely transitioning from Minnesota Winter to Normal Winter, which is winter the way the rest of the country experiences it.  You know, temps in the 30’s, lots of snow, gray skies, instead of arctic blasts, arctic sunshine, super dry air and temperatures so low they could kill you. And while all the big home improvement stores are starting to advertise for lawnmowers and fertilizer, we are left bemoaning the fact that our ground is still frozen and the grass is still covered by FEET of snow. March is a tough month for many Minnesotans, not just this transplant.  Almost everyone, except the winter diehards, is feeling it.  So, today some friends and I went for flower therapy, as my friend called it.

We traveled to Bachman’s on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis.  Bachman’s is a big flower store chain.  The one on Lyndale is especially nice because it has within its walls Patrick’s Bakery and Cafe. The cafe is made to look like it is outside.  The ceiling is like that of a greenhouse.  There are fountains and big yellow market umbrellas over little wrought iron cafe tables.  Birds chirp and hop around while you sit.  It is an all around fabulous experience, especially in the dark of winter.

The Outside, Inside cafe

Patrick’s has delicious quiche and sandwiches, but also the most amazing pastries.  I chose the St. Tropez quiche, made with chicken, tomato and feta cheese. It was served with mixed greens and a vinaigrette dressing.

Of course the best part was dessert. We tried three. My choice was passion cake. Yes, of course I love the name. Who can’t use a little extra passion in their life? 😉 (It’s actually made with passion fruit mousse…).

Passion cake

We also tried a chocolate almond cookie cake. It tasted like a super moist chocolate chip cookie with rich and delicious chocolate.

Chocolate Almond cake

And we sampled trillogy cake (that’s how they spell it), which was an outrageous combination of three different types of mousse and proved to be a light and wonderful delicacy. It was my favorite. All were paired with coffee, which was a much better brew than I expected it to be.

Trillogy cake-yummmm

After consuming the goodies we walked around the greenhouse area, absorbing the smells of all the early spring and indoor plants and then checked out the gift area, trying the whole time not to look out the windows and see the mountains of white outside.  I left feeling refreshed, even if just for a brief interlude. It was great to escape the doldrums for an afternoon.

Indoor fountain

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…

Oh no, don’t let me assimilate…

Snowmobiling on frozen Lake Independence

Minnesotans and the folks that live here have a great deal of pride. And I suppose it is rightfully so. There is a certain amount of bragging rights you earn by living in a place that easily has temperatures of 15 below in the winter and wind chills well below that. It is no easy task managing a snow pack for half the year and all the freezing, wet messiness that comes with it.

I laugh in the face of this pride, or I have at least historically laughed in the face of it. I roll my eyes with the rest of the east coasters at the ho-hum boringness of the midwest lifestyle. “Minne-where?  Where is that?  Is it somewhere in the middle?” I shirked at the thought of moving to a fly-over, one of those states in the middle of the country that they don’t bother teaching about in geography on the coasts because, after all, none of those states really matter. They are all kind of the same and blend together anyway. But yesterday, it happened. Crap.

I work at the University of Minnesota and managing the campus in the winter has been a bit of a challenge. The sidewalks are generally not super clear, especially this year with it snowing just a little every day or every other day for a while. I’ve almost bit the dust a few times on my way to my office because of the packed down snow and ice that is inevitably on the roads and sidewalks. So, for Christmas I received a nifty little present called Yak-Trax.  They are worn on the bottoms of your boots and keep you from slipping and sliding. Those have really helped. And when I hear that it is going to be cold (below 10) I make sure I layer up. Long underwear, wool socks, boots (my cow-girl boots with rubber tread-they make me feel like I’m giving a little sass to Old Man Winter), jeans, shirt, fleece,down jacket, scarf, hat (or as my Minnesota friend calls it “stocking cap”), hood with Eskimo fur pulled up over said hat and gloves. And off I go, usually walking 8 blocks or so from the stadium parking lot to my building.  If it’s below zero, as it has been this week, I pay a little extra to park in this underground garage that is only about 3 blocks from my building. (I do however always feel like there is a really good chance I am going to get mugged in there, but I’m pretty sure that’s the Jersey in me talking.) And I have done this, without much complaining, all winter.

I usually listen to the radio through my headphones as I walk (totally antisocial I know but no one talks to you on campus anyway-see my post about MN nice). Yesterday, as I emerged from the underground parking deck, the weather guy on the radio came on. “It’s 2 below in the Twin Cities with a wind chill of 20 below.”  “Brrrr…..,” I thought, but I had on all my layers, so I was feeling pretty toasty.  Then as I approached my building, the national news came on. “Chicago residents are being warned to stay inside. Spend as little time outside as possible.  It’s 8 degrees in the Windy City with a windchill of 5 below” “Pshhht,” I thought as I walked along, “they’re not warning us to stay inside and it’s colder here.” I looked around PRIDEFULLY as I considered myself and the bustling campus around me full of people all going along, living our lives despite the absurdly cold temperatures. There were so many people out and about that if it weren’t for the extra layers we were all wearing, you’d have thought it was spring.  “We just keep on living here,” I thought. “We know how to just keep going.” YIKES. I stopped myself as I realized I may have just had a moment of Minnesota pride, a feeling like, whether I like it or not, by sheer necessity, I’ve become a “Brave one of the North.” Aw man, how did THAT happen. I better move SOON!

Me in my gear-no exposed skin 😉

White

Turquoise waves, khaki sand, brown-black dirt, multiple variations of green as a new cycle of life begins, blue sky, red and yellow tulips screaming out to be noticed. This is beauty. White is like a coloring page untouched, waiting, blank. White leaves me waiting, wanting, longing. Desperate to see anything but the grey, white, neutrals of the winter landscape. If you cannot understand me, that is fine. I experience it differently. Come, walk beside me and try to understand. Try to feel what it is like to long for color and I will try to see the beauty where you see it.