What is winter without snow?
Going Nature's Way
The fog was so bad we were creeping along, trying to see the white line next to the shoulder of the road. It was Saturday night, December 1, and we were returning from Cambridge, where we’d been at the Morgan and Scout Bookstore for a book signing. Temperatures were in the 40s and the ground was wet from the melting of the leftover Thanksgiving snow — dangerous conditions. We just hoped there wouldn’t be a deer standing on the side of the road, ready to leap out.
The forecast from weather.com predicts a warmer than average December throughout the Midwest, South, Ohio Valley and Great Lakes regions. In the first days of the month the temperatures are expected to be 10 to 30 degrees above average. But it’s getting hard to say what is average or normal anymore. I just hope it isn’t another winter that ... isn’t.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend our grandchildren experienced the same joy and laughter that we did as kids, when they went sledding on our neighbor’s hill. What adult Minnesotan doesn’t remember those wonderful, wild, white days when the air was sharp against your skin, but it didn’t matter, because adrenalin was coursing through your veins as you sped down a snowy slope. I love watching the kids engaged in this free and exhilarating connection with the outdoors. I even got on the sled a few times, but decided the ruts at the bottom of the hill were a bit too jarring for my old back. They will be less noticeable after a few more snowfalls. The kids ranged in age from 5 to 9 and were fearless, which I can’t say for myself as I watched them careen past.
What is a Minnesota winter (or Christmas for that matter) without snow? Just plain brown and depressing; an extended November. And what would we do if the lakes never froze solid enough so that ice fisherman couldn’t set up their houses and drill holes and play cards or whatever it is they do in those homes away from home? A Minnesota winter with snow and shovels and ice and windchill is part of our national identity. So what if people think we live in igloos. Imagine Prairie Home Companion without stories of Lake Wobegone gripped by winter. Impossible.
Admit it. It just doesn’t feel right to go through December without snow.
I know that we are nearing the end of another year; that the Mayans have said it will be our last, yet we are making plans for the future. What that future will look like is the ultimate mystery, but we northern Minnesotans come from hardy European stock, if not even hardier Indigenous stock and we will meet the challenges ahead with stoic force. We will support and come to one another’s aid when crisis hit, as it did in the summer with the floods. We will get outdoors, in cold or heat, and enjoy our natural resources.
We are Minnesotans and we take pride in this beautiful state with its incredible abundance of lakes, rivers and streams. We are richer than any oil emirate, because we have freshwater that we can drink; that we absolutely need for survival. The question might be whether we really appreciate that fact, if our natural wealth, since it exists all around us, disappears from our view. It’s hard to believe that most of our state is currently in a serious drought, but it is and the snow that falls in winter determines how much recharge our rivers and lakes and wetlands will get come spring. So I say to you. Think snow. And then get out and enjoy it.
Wishing everyone a white and merry Christmas.