Glad the Groundhog Got it Wrong

Here’s my newspaper column this week:

As I scrawl these words on a lovely evening, smoke from my wood stove wafts from the chimney and twists up and through large snowflakes falling like feathers. It’s snowing again, as it did the weekend prior, and I welcome it as if it were manna from heaven.

Sam Cook wrote a column in early January for the daily paper lamenting that we were becoming Des Moines, since our winter weather statistics were more in line with those of the capital of Iowa for yet another year. The same day in January, the 11th, it rained. That was the nadir of what appeared to be a third disappointing winter in a row. It was all uphill from there, and February and March have not disappointed.

What a glorious second half to winter we have had. There have been no blockbuster storms or massively impressive snowfall totals, but we have enough to build forts, cover up that stuff in the yard you neglected to pick up this fall, and to cross country ski every day of the week if you choose.

These regular measurable snowfalls have made for tremendous ski conditions on our city’s world class trail system. Winter enthusiasts around here are not taking this for granted. I’ve been out skiing nearly every day of the week, and enjoy each experience as if it’s the last of the season.

Out on the trails I am one of the scrubs. I wear an old wooly flannel rather than highly technical clothes, my skis are over 20 years old and improperly sized, and my form isn’t perfect. None of this matters. However, I frequently enjoy seeing old pros or young hot shots blaze by me. Many of these souls that grace me as they fly by obviously grew up on skis and are poetry in motion, possess perfect symmetry, and display active beauty.

When winter storm Saturn grazed Duluth, I was out skiing the moment the first snowflake fell, which is always a thrill to me. I just love experiencing the weather as it’s happening. I then hurried over to Lake Superior, and was exhilarated by the gale force winds sailing off the frozen sea. Judging the storm track and the high winds from the lake, I knew right then that we wouldn’t get a massive dumping of snow. I was thankful nonetheless.

That’s the silver lining of a couple crummy winters that preceded this one. We know how good we have it now, and should not take it for granted. Rather than belly ache about an extra minute to clear off your car, get out and frolic in the stuff as if it will melt tomorrow.

One recent Friday morning I lay in bed fruitlessly trying to sleep, so rather than be frustrated I got out to the Lester Park ski trails before dawn. I was there at about the same time as one of our city’s finest, the trail groomer, and was the first to christen the fresh tracks. This was the perfect time to be there, alone in the woods, and calmly gliding through the forest.

The trails were lit in the predawn hours, and gradually the lights weren’t necessary as the sun began to rise. As I rounded a last bend to enjoy a lengthy gentle descent, the pink sunrise warmly lit the birches and aspens as if by candle light. This was a very fine way to start the day, and I was on a high that carried me through clear to lunch time as I sat hunched over in front of a computer.

It definitely isn’t my dream to sit on my rump in front of a screen all day, but the job does allow me to be in Duluth, which is more than many people in this world can say. I find that getting outside for fresh air and exercise, in all seasons, is crucial to my sanity and wholeness as a husband, dad, friend, neighbor, and man. Enjoy these last days of winter for what they are, genuine gifts, and when it finally ends we needn’t eulogize but may celebrate what has been and what will be in the days to come.

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