Embracing Winter

Frost coats a crimson leaf that fell from the tree in our front yard this week. Photo by Melissa F. Kaelin.
Frost coats a crimson leaf that fell from the tree in our front yard this week. Photo by Melissa F. Kaelin.

It amazed me how lovely and long the season of Autumn was in Minnesota this year. The brilliant fall colors, the piles of drying leaves and the appreciative birdsong seemed like they would last forever.

In some ways, those fall treasures are still here. The tree outside my new place didn’t turn until the very last week of Autumn, and its leaves are still glowing in the sunlight, shimmering with reds and oranges against a backdrop of ice and snow.

That’s right, snow.

Winter’s ominous return

Winter returned to Minnesota just last week, ending our fantasy fall and slamming the state with instant cold, heavy snow and even ice. It declared triumphantly, “I’m baaack!” and sent us all running to replace our old shovels and stock up on sidewalk salt.

Even as we head into the single digits tonight, bracing ourselves for what might lead to weeks of skidding on ice, I’m determined to approach the season with a different attitude this year.

After mulling over the option to move to a new state and run away from Minnesota’s most frigid season, I decided to stay, not only for the wonder of nature here but also for the beauty we find all year round.

So I hunkered down. I bought some wood for our old brick fireplace, warmed the house with the smell of spiced apple cider, and fetched the heaviest clothing I could find in the closet. When I got tired of being inside, I pulled on my big girl boots and grabbed the puppy, taking her out to her favorite dog park for the first time in the snow.

No matter what it takes, I’m going to get through winter with a better attitude this year. Sure, I’ll still complain about my tires spinning on the Saint Paul ice, and I’ll vent every time the subzero temps freeze snot inside my nostrils. But I’m determined to do it in style.

“The Story of Winter”

Even a film I saw last weekend inspired me to this effect, though I’ve been meditating on my icy resolve since the spring, slightly dreading the day when winter would return.

Last year, local weather enthusiasts Alec Johnson and Kenny Blumenfeld filmed our ridiculous Minnesota winter, that record-setting beast that knocked all our socks off. In their film “The Story of Winter” they found the fun and wonder of the season, revealing the complex relationship Minnesotans have with winter and even finding the humor in it.

Their work was uplifting to say the least, if not inspiring.

It reminded me how much beauty there is in the cold, and in the Minnesotans and other northerners who endure it year after year.

Showering us with gifts

Watching the images of talented photographers cycle through my social media news feed, I’ve realized that nature gives us countless gifts during the wintertime.

One of the most awe-inspiring phenomenon is the Northern Lights, a sign that the sun still shines for this earth even in the dark of night. But over the last year, I’ve also learned about the steam that rises from Lake Superior when the water temperature is warmer than the air. I’ve seen photos of frost flowers, delicate three-dimensional forms that cover the lake in unusual circumstances.

I’ve hiked through my first hoarfrost-laden forest, I’ve visited the North Shore when the waters are frozen solid, and I’ve seen rainbow-colored sundogs arch across the morning sky.

Now, as fall yields to the longest season in the north, I’ve added a colorful frosted leaf to that catalog of cold.

This curled leaf from my front yard will serve as a reminder to carry the beauty with me this year, to always keep an eye out for those little crystals of wonder.

No matter how low we go this winter, I’m ready to embrace it!


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