Snowed In

This year I am thankful for snow. Yup, that's right, I was actually thankful for the 17+ inches of snow that were dumped on us last weekend, beginning late Friday night and not letting up until late Saturday night. Oh, and in typical Minnesnowtan fashion, this blizzard was followed up by the infamous sub-zero temperatures that freeze nostril hair if you dare step outside.

So why, might you ask, was I thankful for this "winter survival challenge" you may ask?

Let me count the ways ...

1. Reminder of Childhood: Snow, especially large dumpings of snow, always brings me back to the days when my sisters and I lived for snow days. We would bundle up bright and early, and spend the entire day jumping through snow drifts; making snow angles, snowmen (and girls), and elaborate forts (that included slides on the roof, windows, secret doors ...); and just lying back in our own imprint to count the snowflakes meeting our eyelashes. Childhood is naturally filled with wonder and delight, and whenever those silent flakes come down I'm reminded of those days (and actually spend a few minutes sitting in a snowbank to soak it all in again ... hopefully my neighbors don't think I'm weird!).
Here's a photo of one of our early forts. We even drank hot chocolate inside! I'll have to dig up pictures from our later forts, because they were really impressive!
One of my favorite snowfalls of my childhood was the Blizzard of '96. We lived in New Jersey so we didn't have a continual blanket of snow all winter long, but every once in a while we'd get a "Noreastern" -- and boy were those fun! In '96 we woke up to a huge snowdrift that had us captive in our house since it pressed up against the front door and kept our shovel hostage -- which we had left somewhere out in the front yard. So what did we do? We all tumbled on out the front window, of course, to find the shovel and dig out the front door! In hindsight this really makes me laugh, because I'm sure my dad didn't need all 4 of us out there "helping". But what excitement! Later that day Karrin and I went on a hike to the movie store to rent a movie. We didn't make it very far (just to the playground) before we had to stop for a break, sighing "I don't know if we're going to make it ... maybe we should find shelter for a while..." hahaha, so dramatic (I think we were probably reading Little House on the Prairie at that time). We did continue on and made it to the store. What a triumph!

Kirsten, my oldest sister, used to love sticking her face in snow and just sitting there. I don't know if she liked the challenge of seeing how long she could stay before she turned numb or if she was pretending she was an Eskimo or something (I'll have to ask her!) but something about that experience in the snow called to her.

What snow experiences do you crave every year? Is it something cooky like plunging your face in snow? Or perhaps it's an activity like cross-country skiing or snowmobiling, or even just a late night walk? My aunt and her family started a neat Christmas tradition where they go on a walk at midnight on Christmas Eve, and sometimes they are lucky and there is a fresh carpeting of snow underfoot. Magical.

2. Provides natural exercise and adventure! If you're from Minnesota, or any place that has experienced gigantic heapings of snow, you know what I mean when I say snow = exercise. Especially if you don't own a snowblower. Thankfully we did invest in a snowblower this year. But even with it, I got quite a workout over the weekend and was even sore the following day. (Photo is from earlier snowfall)
You see, a snowblower doesn't help much when you have to shovel out your car, and when you have to push your stuck car for the third or fourth time (no photos from those feats). Uffda! ... although we did try putting our snowblower to work out in the street. I think it helped a bit ....
But when it was all said and done, it felt good to really get out there and work on something with a purpose.

Even going to the gas station (to get more gas for the snowblower) was quite the experience. When it snows, it's like the world is inverted and simple tasks turn in to big adventures, traffic rules are tossed aside, and people come together to help each other ... which leads me to ...

3. Helps develop a sense of community. There were probably 6 cars that got stuck at the end of our street in one day. And those were only the ones that I saw. But every time I'd see a car stuck, I also saw a group of people crowded around it, figuring out how to work through it together. Evan and I got stuck twice on our way out of the alleyway, and once when trying to move our car parked out front. Every time, without fail, some random neighbor I'd never met before (and often times a whole group of them) would appear, seemingly out of nowhere and just start pushing the car! Once one of our helpers was a high school aged boy who said he's been shoveling people out since 5am. He could have been sitting inside playing video games, but no, he chose to be out there helping his neighbors. What a great way to establish a sense of community! Here's Evan doing his share of "community service", attempting to plow the street with his snowblower (the plows didn't come through for a couple of days).

It's almost like a natural disaster, only there is no real rush or urgency. Time is measured out by how many neighbors you can meet, how many cars you get unstuck, and how many times you have to go out and re-shovel or blow your driveway -- and you can forget your to-do list for the day.

4. allows me to relax (when I'm not out shoveling, of course). I don't usually find time to just sit. If I'm sitting, I'm also working on my computer, doing homework, or organizing something. Seriously, I probably have a "must be productive" problem. But I found that on this snowy weekend I discovered something:

I actually sat down, even took a nap (!) without even reading a book! Just sat in our cozy living room. Not only did I not worry about cleaning, I also didn't worry about mess, as is evident here:
I should learn to live like this more often!

5. Provides clarity, inspiration, and a new beginning: I think Calvin says it best:
I love Calvin and Hobbes, and even have the book with this particular strip in it sitting right next to my bed. I read it if I have trouble sleeping, if I need help relaxing and calming down, if I want inspiration, or even just a good laugh. This is my favorite strip as it reflects exactly how I feel about snow ... and life. Have you noticed my reference at the top of my blog?

6. Provides challenge so we can prove we are resilient. When it is dark and cold and many people yearn for the balmy days of summer, that's when it's most important to see the glass half full. This is our chance to make our own warmth and "light". Read more about my thoughts on the importance of the colder months in this post of yore.

Right before Thanksgiving I attended a concert hosted by Garrison Keillor (Gratitute, Gravy, and Garrison, with VocalEssence). In the program notes he spoke to the Minnesotan who is faced with this challenge every year -- of surviving a bitter winter and deciding to see the challenge as something positive:

 "We have the good fortune to live in a beautiful state where people care about each other and where ... we look out our windows every morning at a dazzling whiteness and put on our down vests and take a brisk and invigorating walk and feel the blood in our veins and the stimulation in our brains. Nothing like a Minnesota winter -- you get the sensual pleasure of it, plus you get to complain about it."

So thank you Old Man Winter, for all of the "quality time" ... and now I'm off for a "balmy" vacation in New Jersey!

Note: Calvin and Hobbes image taken from here, although it's originally from the comic book It's a Magical World"


  1. excellent post! you struck a lot of notes for me as well... particularly elaborate forts and Calvin and Hobbes! Love it, Thanks.

  2. What a great post - and on your birthday too! I remember the joy of snow through the eyes of children- particularly my children. Thank you all for such fond memories! Maybe you can bring a bit of snow to New Jersey when you visit?

  3. Glad you liked it! I know, isn't Calvin and Hobbes the best?!

    Mom, wish you guys had snow in Jersey so we could build a fort when we visit! I'll try bring some with ; )

  4. How fun! Thanks for sharing your uplifting (and much-needed) perspective on this cold, snowy season. I love the variety of your indoor & outdoor pictures, past and present; and of course the Calvin and Hobbes! What a fun read.


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