Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Kate Crowley
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

How our perspective on snow changes

Going Nature's Way


December 5, 2019

Snowbound. Invalid. Those are two words that came to mind this morning as I looked out the window from bed at the dollops of snow covering the branches of the red pines. It was a beautiful scene, but one that I can only enjoy through the windows. I am recovering from knee surgery and so “invalid” is the other reality. This is a temporary condition but still frustrating.

This caused me to think about life and how our relationship to the natural world changes as we age. I am a natural born, hardcore Minnesotan. That means I love all four seasons, including winter. In some ways I like winter better than the other seasons, because throughout my lifetime, winter has meant snow and subsequently play. As a child, if we are properly attired for being out in the snow, there are endless opportunities for recreation and imagination; snowflakes, snowmen, snowballs, sledding, skiing, snow forts, and “snow days” (no school!). There are no other obligations to consider, just a transformed world that seems made just for children to enjoy.

If we are lucky, we maintain that childhood awe and enthusiasm for winter and snow into adulthood. Once we are old enough to drive we must learn (sometimes the hard way) that there are dangers related to snow. This is exactly what happened to me soon after getting my license in 1965. My best friend and I were on our way to see Dr. Zhivago in downtown Minneapolis and for some reason I was driving her parents’ station wagon. I don’t think she had her license yet. It was dark and we were cruising down Park Ave after a recent wet snowfall. Up ahead the stop light turned red and though I had more than enough room to slow down, I hit the brakes and quickly learned the physics of forward momentum on a slippery surface.

The car began to slide towards the curb where many cars were parked. Helpless to stop our slide, I watched in horror as we hit one of the cars. I’m sure you can imagine the emotions. The damage wasn’t great, but there was crumpled metal. I knew I had to try to find the owner, but the buildings were all apartment style and how was I ever going to find the right one? I know we tried, but eventually gave up and left. We made it to the movie, though I suspect with less enjoyment. I have no memory of when or how we told her parents.

Since then I have lived through the years watching and worrying about my two children learning to drive and surviving winter conditions. Both had accidents as teens due to black ice and snow-covered roads. They too learned the hard way about snow and its effect on tires. Now I have grandsons who will soon be driving, in Duluth no less. Both their mother and I will worry.

So our enjoyment of snow was tempered somewhat in adulthood knowing that there are very real dangers associated with it. But for me, snow still meant skiing (both downhill and cross-country), snowshoeing, sledding with friends and my children, even some winter camping, although that never made it high on my list of fun winter activities. I was also fortunate because a good portion of my adult working life involved being outside doing those same activities with others. One activity that I never knew about or imagined doing was skijoring. This is where you hook yourself up to a dog (or two) with harness and lines and take off down the ski trail. What a thrill, what joy for both skier and dogs. We did this for a decade with three of our dogs.

We did not have typical jobs that involved getting dressed in business clothes, getting into cold cars and driving on sketchy roads to work and then going from the warm car to the cold again before reaching the office. I can easily understand the unhappiness and discomfort this daily activity would engender. Plus, you have to add the arduous task of shoveling or snowblowing your way to the car, so you can even get underway. So I do understand it when people grumble about the snow.

But time has a way of changing our bodies and our ability to engage in the snow play we have always done. Now, we anticipate the snowstorm with a mixture of dread and pleasure. There is the undeniable beauty of a snow covered forest, the pure white, sometimes glittering landscape and the awe it inspires. But now there is the more daunting task of shoveling the deck and snowplowing the driveway. Even though we have always done this, there are now aches and pains associated with the work. My husband refuses to let his bad back deter his pleasure of being out in the thick of it. Normally I am the person who shovels the big deck, but for now he is doing it and I feel guilty for his extra work. There is a time coming when we will have to ask others to do this for us. There will be no cross-country skiing for me this year, but Mike will go out on his snowshoes.

If we plot our lives by the seasons of the year, it is with some sadness that I realize we are entering the winter of ours. Still, I am the same Minnesota girl who loves snow and would not trade the beauty of the season for any other place. I hope your holidays are as lovely as the fresh fallen snow.


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