Not the loveliest time of year

Published 11:21 am Monday, March 16, 2009

Things are about as ugly as they can get. The formerly beautiful snow has shrunk to piles of grime-covered conglomerates, the top layer of grime insulating what remains of snow from getting out of the way and our minds. The lake across the way is adequate for us; we don’t need one in every yard. The lower layer of ice keeps the melt water from soaking into the soil where it could do some good. Everything is either dirty white or dull brown. We know nothing yet of green—not even a hint.

Minnesota suffers two boring seasons: Right now after the snow has melted and before the spring growth returns, and its concomitant in the fall after the harvest has cleared the fields of living things and before the snow blankets it for winter hibernation.

Winter is good for native Minnesotans and long-time residents, who have finally achieved acculturation. It isn’t hard to do this. All one need do is tough it through 20 or so winters, and by then one has too much invested to go back to the ordinary. Also by then you have earned bragging rights and can say with the arrogance of natives: If you think this is bad, you should have been here in the old days.

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The nice thing about Minnesota winters is they are actually winters, not the on-again/off-again attempts of Chicago or the day-long pretenses of New Jersey, both of which I have endured with not a small measure of disgust.

One thing I haven’t yet come to understand about Minnesotans is when the temperature dips, momentarily, below the freezing point they call it a nice day. Sure, you can go out with exposed nose, but you slosh through slush. In such semi-winter conditions, I may as well be back in Chicago or even New Jersey. This is when we get colds. Below zero is healthy weather, because we know to dress warm then.

Another nice thing about our winters is we don’t need to cope with pot holes (in the winter). I hadn’t noticed this until one January when I flew to Washington, D.C., and became amazed at the number of pot holes the cab encountered. The intermittent freezing and thawing of the rust belt manufactures pot holes through what should be a genuine winter. We acquire pot holes, of course, but we save them for a grand celebration of the end of winter. Then we experience pot holes of a depth to make up for what we didn’t have during the winter. We consume a lot of gas in the added mileage of driving down into and up out of pot holes. Who said southern Minnesota is flat country?

When we moved here, I presumed the state must have an especially large amount of snowfall. It just seems this way because snow cover is so faithful, October to April some years. The eastern shore of Lake Michigan and the southern shore of Lake Ontario receive much more. It’s just that we make better use of the snow we get. Those areas suffer snow without ever being able to enjoy it. God gifts us with snow to use, not just endure.

Summers in Minnesota? This was the bigger surprise when we moved from mild Puget Sound. One would think mild summers here would be fair compensation for severe winters. Not so. Summers can be as hot as winters are cold.

Just doesn’t seem right. Isn’t this what is meant by double jeopardy?

Minnesota does have spring and fall, mind you. About two days each, most years: early September and late June. During the former we keep wearing summer clothes that are not warm enough, and by the time we change wardrobes it is nearly winter and we are out-of-season. During the latter we keep wearing winter clothes that are too warm, and by the time we change wardrobes again it is nearly summer and we are once again out-of-season.

The advantages of short falls and springs is we don’t need to buy clothing for them. But, of course, we do anyway just to conform. We want to be respected, because our self-pride isn’t as self-convincing as we should like to think.

And let’s get over this you-know-what-they-say-if-you-don’t-like-the-weather-here-just-wait-and… They say this everywhere. If we want to hold on to our weather bragging rights, we must be different. We are different because our winters are genuine, and so are we. We don’t need Garrison Keillor to tell us.

I saw a robin the other day. I swear: He had a confused look on his face.