Monday, December 12, 2016


I am a typical Minnesotan and so, I make jokes every winter about the misery of shoveling snow.
Poor me. Outside in the cold. Shoveling. Hard work. My arms are Jello. I can barely lift my beer.
I enjoy shoveling snow. I might even love it. It's my flaky little secret.
Don't tell Mother Nature. Too much of a good thing isn't necessarily a good thing.
There is something about a winter activity. Maybe I just like the high tech clothing...? I mean, somebody had to design the stuff that keeps me sweating when it's 5 degrees outside. My coat is a marvel of layers and linings and pockets and zippers and hooks. I have shirts and pants specifically designed to be an under layer (because wicking is a thing) and I have fully lined over-layers. I have three different hats for "not too bad" days and a one trusty hat for "better wear the good hat" days. Ditto for gloves. I own a thing called a Turtle Fur Gaiter. I own Smart Wool socks and three different kinds of footwear made not for fashion, but for being out in the snow. We can be ugly out there, because it's ugly out there.
I often joke that the state motto of Minnesota should be changed from "Étoile du Nord" to "It's not cold, you're underdressed."
Northern people also have the bragging/martyr thing we do where we talk about how much snow we moved all by our damn selves. We post pictures of snow banks where our driveways are supposed to be, and later, post pictures of the shoveled out driveway.
I have, on this very blog, posted a picture of me standing outside in my cold weather gear, with barely any skin showing, drinking a Schell's Chimneysweep. I had spent hours digging out from a major snow storm in Duluth and I earned that damn beer. In fact, a major part of our motivation that day was digging out the driveway enough to get a car go to the liquor store. We achieved that, then came back and finished the rest, which took another 2-3 hours using both a snow blower and a shovel.
Mother Nature does not mess around.
There are people who live here who aren't into it as much as I am. I remember a few winters ago, there was a lady who lived across the street from us who had a job as a cheerleader for the Minnesota Vikings. We had a bad storm, lots of snow, and there was a guy with a truck outside, helping pull people out of their parking spots because the snow plows had basically buried their cars. That cheerleader was his girlfriend, and she was there with him, talking to people about the snow, as you do. He was wearing Carhartt from head to toe. She was wearing skinny jeans with stylish fuzzy boots and a white puffy vest over a long sleeve t-shirt. She had on these really great hand-knit white mittens that I remember well.
Guess which one of them had to spend most of their time inside the truck to keep warm?
Hey, if I could get away with it, I'd do that, too.
On second thought, nah...I don't think I would.
I am a big fan of the ta-dah. I like taking on a task that looks brutal, quietly doing all the work and then saying, "See what I did all by myself? Ta-Dah!" Fairly typical of a Look-At-Me personality like mine.
You get a particular kind of ache in your body when you do a strenuous outdoor activity in the winter--coming in from the cold, you feel wiped out but it feels good somehow. As your body warms up and you're easing yourself into a chair or a hot bath, the creaking and moaning noises you make are a sign of a job well done, or time well spent.
Beyond that, though...I like the fact that it's an activity I usually do by myself because I get a lot of thinking done. Owing to the short winter days, it's often nighttime when I'm outside and there is no other sound except the shovel finding the concrete, or my feet crunching the snow. The conversations I have in my head are enlightening, and the repetitive nature of the work is meditative.
Yes, I dare say I enjoy it.
Don't worry, though. I'll still make noises like I hate it, so they don't revoke my Minnesota residency--you have to pretend winter annoys you or they look at you funny around here.

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