Mother Nature had the common decency to wait until November 9th before sending the first snow of winter to Twin Cities’ residents. For roughly 8 minutes puffy white flakes fell to the ground; the curtain going down on autumn’s award worthy performance. As a child the first snowfall came with excitement and anticipation of sledding, snow days, hot chocolate, snowmen and igloos. Gone are those good old days of winter enjoyment, replaced by the dread and foreboding of digging out the driveway, trekking the office parking lot in negative temperatures, going weeks without seeing sunlight, and engaging in a never ending battle with dry, cracking skin. While snow is a universal sign that winter is upon us, my own personal sign is the yearly offer from my husband granting me a no questions asked divorce; “Don’t look out the window, you’ll hate me. I don’t blame you if you want a divorce.” As tempting as the offer is looking down the long and dark tunnel of winter, there are other ways to get through this most horrible of seasons.
Devising methods to survive Minnesota’s brutal and harsh winter is an annual pastime. Plans often include steps like purchasing bulky clothes, planning several business trips to warmer locations, bringing the laptop home nightly for freak snowstorm telecommuting, and ritual application of H2O-Plus Hydrating Body Butter. Planning a tropical vacation entails a detailed study of the Farmer’s Almanac and analysis of yearly weather patterns to ensure that the coldest snap of the season occurs during the precise time you are laying on a beach sipping frosty drinks with little umbrellas in them. While all of these moves assist with surviving winter they are all the equivalent of applying a band aid to a gunshot wound; grossly inadequate treatment that does not address the larger issue.
Nature’s natural defenses against winter are misaligned with our modern world; animals, including humans, build up insulation for additional warmth and the body slips into a mild depression to induce more time asleep and away from the cold. While the cavemen probably enjoyed the extra ten pounds and the need for 12 hours a nightly rest my closet and my employer do not allow me the opportunity to indulge in these side-effects of winter. Most of the year is spent battling to lose the additional winter insulation which miraculously comes back despite all my best efforts to keep it off. It is difficult to maintain or lose weight when the body is trying to protect itself from the harsh cold. Adding to the issue is the “winter blues,” that depression that is medically known as Seasonal Affective Disorder; sometimes the only way to find happiness after weeks without sunlight is at the bottom of a bag of Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Covered Pretzels. Do you think the Girl Scouts would sell nearly the number of cookies they do in August?
Due to circumstances beyond my control our annual February pilgrimage to Hawaii or the Caribbean is postponed until May, leaving my skin and sanity vulnerable to the cold and snow. Without the tropical vacation defense it is necessary to implement a new game plan. In the essence of the old adage “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” the plan for this winter is to do what most Minnesotan’s do November through April; embrace the season. If the last 7 years have taught me anything it is that the battle against winter can never be won. Like any good General would attest an important element of any war is to attack the enemy early and often. Yesterday I celebrated the season’s first snowfall with a 2 hour trip around the Minnetonka Ice Arena with a good friend, trading in our usual inline skates for original blades; step one in “Operation Embrace Winter.” Other plans include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and tubing; all dependant on snow and lots of it giving me a reason to actually look forward to the snow. Maybe this plan will help me understand why everyone who is from here tolerates the winter so well, at the very least it will keep me from taking my husband up on his seasonal divorce offer; I don’t know how favorably the local legal system will look upon a woman leaving her husband because of the cold and I would probably lose custody of the dogs.