Wednesday of this past week my son and I spent the lovely 70 degree afternoon pulling up the vegetable plants, gathering herbs for drying, putting away sand toys and garden tools, and breaking up sticks for kindling. Soon I’ll move to wood pile near the back door and we’ll put tarps on the outdoor furniture and I’ll gather in the last of the lettuce and beans. Like the many busy squirrels we see burying nuts all over our yard, we are beginning the process of readying ourselves for winter.
It’s simply shocking to me, but I have realized over the years that most people don’t like winter. (Can you believe it?) They don’t like snow and they don’t like cold. Now, I can understand disliking gray clouds and pitch black mornings–though I’m trying to not let them get to me–but I love snow and I love cold. I love that for four or five months of the year I can wear sweaters and scarves and boots and hats. I love shoveling the driveway after a big snowstorm. I love taking hikes in snow up to my knees. I simply love the way winter makes you acutely aware of being a living thing.
Summer is easy. If your car breaks down or you get lost for hours in the woods during the warm months, you know you’re going to be all right. It’s only in winter when we are reminded that we are warm-blooded beings who are significantly different from the frigid, dead world around us. There’s an excitement and a fearful thrill to being outside in a foot or two of snow as the mercury drops well below freezing. And there is a palpable sense of contentment and joy at being inside on the couch in front of the fireplace, wrapped in a blanket, sipping a hot drink and listening to Bach or Duke Ellington.
Winter means five months of no yard work (beyond occasional shoveling). No weeding, no mowing, no raking, no planting, no trimming, no harvesting. It’s five months of talking yourself out of going out of the house (which is so overrated) and instead enjoying being home and doing homey things. It’s five months that slow you down a bit and give you a break from the bustle of the warm months. Winter means no rushing because it’s too dangerous to drive that fast. Winter means feeling like a daredevil adventurer when you drive across the state to visit family at Thanksgiving and Christmas and can tell them about how you cheated death, how you turned into the skid and avoided a colossal accident. Winter is helping that unfortunate person with rear wheel drive whose car got stuck, and feeling just a little bit smug about your winter preparedness. (How hard is it to stick a shovel in your trunk?)
I am hoping and praying for a very cold and snowy winter. Before you curse at me through your screen, consider that this is not just because I like snow. It’s because a huge part of our state’s economy depends on it. Unless you’ve been under a rock all summer, if you live in Michigan you know that the uncharacteristically early and warm spring, followed by the brutally hot and dry summer, brought our agricultural sector to a standstill. The crops that survived were sub-par and, because of supply and demand being out of whack, quite pricey. Maple syrup, cherries, apples, cider, peaches, corn–all of it suffered. And the people who grow it, process it, and ship it suffered too. Apparently the one silver lining in this agricultural nightmare is the wine industry. Grapes like hot, dry weather. (So buy lots of Michigan wine, please.)
Last winter in Lansing we had only one significant snowfall and much of the rest of the state was green most of the season as well. So who suffered while people were happily going about in shirtsleeves and even shorts? The entire winter resort/sports sector, people who normally plow our streets, ice fishing, places where you can tube or ski or ice skate. And probably many more I’m not thinking of. Our whole state depends on a good cold, snowy winter.
I’m getting ready for one.