Tag Archives: winter

Warm Winters Bring Their Own Worries…

14 Jan

Just a small post today because I’ve had some things on my mind.

First, even though I can’t figure out how to put a hyper link in a post, I did figure out how to post a blogroll, so now here, to the right, you can find the link to the Minnesota Moments article that currently appears in the winter edition of the magazine! So now, if you haven’t already, you can read the actual article about me and ten other Minnesota bloggers. Enjoy!

Secondly – and this is the stuff that’s been keeping me awake at night – the unnaturally warm winter seems to be causing unnaturally early behavior and it’s starting to stress me out.

These are the kind of waves we get around here. At least in a normal winter we do.

Example A: I have a strong urge to clean. Something must be wrong for me to have that feeling. Perhaps if I sit down long enough with a good book it will go away.

Example B: The Ice Fishermen who normally spend their evenings, mornings, afternoons and weekends out on the lake like the Grumpy Old Men that they quite possibly are, have been forced to tune up their riding mowers, tractors and/or combines in an effort to give them some valid excuses to get out of the house. Their snowblowers – sitting so lonely in the garage – mock them with their shiny headlights as they sit patiently, tongues lolling out, waiting for non-existent snowstorms to validate their reasons for being.

Example C: The cat who adopted us this fall has an unauthorized boyfriend with whom she spent the entire night last night. I very much fear that we’ll be looking for friendly farmers who might want some new blood in their mouse-catching legions this spring. Fortunately, around here, there always seem to be people who need cats whenever there are cats who need people.

The cat - "Capurrrrnicus" - in all her strange glory.

Example D: Everyone feels restless, as if spring fever has taken hold, but what we are really restless for is a serious snowstorm that will keep us indoors before the fire, all meetings, work and school cancelled. It’s the way we Minnesotans hibernate and without it we feel gyped, ripped-off, un-rewarded. You see, we expect unexpected holidays around here. Yes, it’s still January, and there is still the possibility of a serious storm, but as each day ticks off, we get more and more worried. “Maybe that meeting I don’t want to go to WON’T be cancelled by a storm! You mean I have to attend every single board meeting this winter? What is the world coming to?”

The kind of winter we have NOT had this year.

Yes, if I was stuck in my house due to a storm, I’d probably be complaining. The grass is always greener…

Winter’s Toothless Bite

15 Nov

The cat - a recent addition to our family - found the pumpkins to be fascinating.

I can no longer deny it: winter is lurking just around the corner, coming at me with its claws that rip and teeth that bite. Not to mention its breath that burns and turns any surface into potentially lethal ice-skating rinks of death…or at least humility-inducing and back-wrenching, firm-step-stealing labyrinths that must be navigated with great stealth and tiny, cautious footsteps. Yes, I speak from experience.

I know this to be true by several undeniable signs. 1) The leaves that cover my yard. 2) The ice that covers the lake every morning. 3) The need for my electric blanket to pre-warm my side of the bed every evening. And 4) the jack-o-lanterns that are rapidly becoming toothless and comical and any demons (wasn’t that the original purpose of carving squash?) would laugh at the sight of them and terrorize my house if they thought it was fertile ground for their ministrations. (So far we seem to be demon-free, so that’s a good thing. Perhaps prayer works best, after all.)

Did I mention she found them fascinating?

Sign #1: the leaves. When we lived in town, leaves were a scourge on society and had to be raked, removed, dealt with severely, unless you wanted to be “pink-slipped” by the city and smacked with a bill for their removal. They have valid reasons for this, as they don’t want the prairie lake to turn into a stinky, algae-covered toxic waste zone come August. I don’t want that, either, though, I must say, I like living in the country so much more, where no one cares what becomes of my leaves and we can stomp on them to our heart’s content.

She never would have dared to be so close if his teeth were still functional.

Sign #2: ice on the lake. I enjoy seeing the ice come in, even though I know what it means. I enjoy the daily “weather report” of the extent of its reach across the water, the depth of its hold on the fishes.

Ice forming on a tiny prairie lake is not nearly the big deal that it is on Lake Superior in Duluth. There it is real news when the lake closes for the winter and the shipping industry must wait for Mother Nature to decide when it will begin again. They do their best, come spring, to hurry along the process, and it’s news-worthy again when the ice-breaker goes out and shoves the rotting, blackened burgs out of the way so that the taconite can once again freely flow through the Great Lakes and out of the Eerie Canal.

Here, in the southern part of Minnesota, the Canada Geese are the harbingers of spring and when they show up we know that the ice is melting and soon fishing boats will dot the undulating landscape of Lake Okabena and make fishing widows of many mothers come the fishing opener on Mother’s Day…which, when I think about it, either really stinks or, if the dad’s bring their kids with them, really is a blessing in rubber-booted disguise.

Looks as if he's come out the worst in a bar fight.

Sign #3: my dual-control electric blanket. My husband does not believe in electrically boosting the temperature of his side of the bed. I, on the other hand, am a firm believer in such modern inventions and when I forget to pre-heat my side of the bed, I feel like the one last little treat of the day has been swiped away from me like some mean kid stealing my lollipop just as I got to the Tootsieroll center.

Sign #4: the jack-o-lanterns look like old and toothless men, wheezing in dark corners. I love carving pumpkins. LOVE it. I don’t know why, exactly, as I am completely inept as an artist in any other way. I could not carve a piece of wood into a beautiful form to save my life. Perhaps, come to think of it, that is why I love them: no one cares what they look like and the crazier the better. My life does not depend upon the beauty of my squash-carving abilities.

I don’t even mind reaching into their slippery depths and pulling out their innards. Like pulling off a scab, there is something satisfying about it. And the pumpkins themselves never seem to mind, either. Unless, without my realizing it, they’re holding it against me, just waiting for the cover of night to suddenly take on life and threaten to retaliate despite their slumping features and their growing over-bites. If they do this, I will stand my ground and laugh in their faces. I know their threats are empty. It’s hard to physically harm anyone sans limbs and teeth.

The full moon the other night.

I suppose, really, it’s time to toss those sagging pumpkins into the compost heap. Let them wreck havoc on the bunnies that come to nibble on their shrunken heads. But tossing them out so always seems so final. So absolute. An acknowledgement that autumn is almost over. That winter, in Minnesota, is well on its way.

If it’s teeth look like my jack-o-lantern’s, then it’s bite shouldn’t be too bad.

Minnesota and Me

18 Oct

The bird bath has dried up from all the wind and I really must disassemble it and shove it under the deck as the only creature using it now is the cat (“Yummmm…the world’s largest water dish.”) and she’s sure to break it one of these days in her acrobatic leaps from the deck.

We’ve put the hoses in the shed, all drained and freeze-proof. The tomato cages are lying on the shelf beside the empty flower pots. I dug up my two amaryllis bulbs and they’re drying out, waiting to be doomed to the furnace room for the next several months. One of them should be fine…the other one seems to have lost its roots and I’m fairly certain that keeping it is foolish, but I’m an optimist.

My solar-powered frog has died a noble death, though he still looks cute sitting on the deck. In the winter, with a beard of snow, we call him Dumbledore. Or Gandolf. Depending on which O’Donnell you ask. I can’t bear to banish him to the shed…I need something hopeful to look at when the temperatures have reached obscene levels and the dirt road we live on is snowed in like The Shores of Silver Lake and I’m Laura Ingalls.

Dumbledore...aka Gandolf...sans his beard.

The longest we’ve been trapped here waiting for the snow plow is three days. Yes, in modern America. Lucy was one week old. Luckily she was born two weeks early or I could have really gotten to understand pioneer life far more than I ever wanted to.

The tremendous bummer about this time of year – the thing that makes even a confirmed optimist cringe – is the knowledge that there are five months of winter yet to come. But, bizarrely, I’m looking forward to the first snow. If only the first would be the last! There’s something fun about the first snow. The first fire in the fireplace. The first time I wear a scarf legitimately rather than acsessoristicly. (Try finding that in the dictionary!) Any snow after that is just mean-spirited.

Just a cool Fall picture from the neighborhood.

BUT…and I mean this with all sincerity…I chose this life. I like Minnesota, where the only mountains (at least in my neck of the woods) are actually just clouds on the horizon, taunting me with their faux-snow-covered peaks. I have fallen for this trick of theirs more than once. “Look!” I’ll think, my heart leaping disloyally. “The mountains are out!” And then my brain catches up with my heart. “Oh. Never mind. Shoot.”

I miss real mountains. And real ocean. When I first moved to the Duluth area, I stared in dumbfounded shock at the people who said, “Oh, you must love Lake Superior! It’s just like the ocean!” After smiling weakly at these kindly-but-misguided attempts at helping me feel at home, I would walk away thinking, “These people have obviously never been to the sea.” And somehow all their words just made me sad. Lake Superior – while being a very cool/beautiful/impressive body of water and I really, really like it – is NOT the ocean! It doesn’t smell right! It doesn’t have tides that strand you on the rocks if you keep your back turned too long, or tide pools teaming with creepy-crawly life or Bull Kelp that you gather up and make pickles from…at least if you’re really adventurous, you do.

I miss those things terribly. Around here the only sea breezes come from my air freshener and the starfish are all named Patrick and are drawn by some dude in a studio somewhere in California, ad nauseum, ad infinitum, amen.

But, thankfully, there’s this great invention called the airplane. And I have come to realize that it can take me – often for free, thanks to my husband’s air miles – to those gorgeous, mountain-filled paradises. So long as I can get to the airport through the raging blizzards. (Yes. I speak from experience. Several experiences, in fact.)

The thing is, if I’m willing to admit to the absolute truth, the Pacific Northwest is not perfect either, and, truly, I’m not sure that I’d fit in there anymore. I’ve actually lived AWAY from there longer than I lived there. In my mind, of course, I have idealized it. Fact is, nowhere is perfect, except in memories. Or, perhaps, on the pages of a book. That’s why I’m a writer – one reason, anyway – because, when I’m making up my own world, everything is just the way I want it. (Except for those pesky characters who INSIST on turning left when you wanted them to turn right. And nothing, no-how, can force them left. People have a mind of their own – even made-up people.)

You may not be able to tell, but there's a Turkey Vulture in the trees. Some Bald Eagles migrated through, too, but I need a better lense to prove it!

And so I imagine my mountains. I hang pictures of the ocean; of my son, sandy and happy at age two, holding up a shell to his daddy at the Oregon coast. I put sea-shells on my piano and beach-glass on my desk. I bundle up. I cling to scarves like life-vests. I say “uff da” to fit in and I’ve even tried eating Lutefisk. Once. That was enough.

BUT…and let me make this perfectly clear…I will NEVER “borrow you a pencil”. (Though I’d be glad to loan you one.) Because, let’s face it, there are somethings Minnesotan that I’m willing to claim. And somethings that should just be left alone.

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