More than just Survival

The second week of January is alway pretty quiet in this part of the country. Everyone is solidly back in the daily grind after the holiday season.Version 3

The bulk and the brunt of winter are still ahead, which can be a daunting thought.  A small percentage of  Minnesotans actually enjoy going outdoors in the bitter January air. We all like to brag about being hearty souls, but honestly, most of us merely survive the winter — relatively few embrace it.                                 .
If you venture out in single-digit “high” temps, you might see a runner on Minnehaha Parkway, a cross-country skier on Hiawatha Golf Course, and increasingly over the past few years, grown, intelligent-looking men and women riding bicycles with big fat tires on the snow and ice.

 

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These guys are riding ON the creek.

Seemingly every time I shovel the front sidewalk, the ever-chipper neighbor walking her dog with its little boots comes by and says something about what a nice day it is. Not to be argumentative, I find my self mumbling a semi-agreement. It works for a moment, long enough anyway to remember the bigger picture, that life really is pretty darn good right now.  One day, I even found myself thinking (for a split second), “I’m thankful I can still shovel snow”.

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One of us is better at the embracing- thing than the other.

Being retired brings other, more predictable, moments of gratefulness.  We had a mild snow storm earlier this week and a voice on the radio said the usual, “There have been hundreds of accidents on Twin Cities roads already this morning. If you don’t have to go anywhere today, stay home”.  I did, and I liked it a lot.

I’ve managed to keep my photo-a-day resolution going for two weeks.  According to a survey by a site called StatisticBrain.com, 68.4% of those who make a new year’s resolution keep it going for the first two weeks.  I thought that percentage would be lower, but I’ll take it.  I’m already ahead of 31.6% of the resolution-makers!

With my back still stinging from that self-pat, here is one photo from each day of week two. You’ll that see I did manage to get my butt outside a few times. And OK. . . .yes, it was a good thing.

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(1/8/17) We dropped in to see my friend Graydon Royce do his a radio show / podcast called “The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour” (More about this in the coming days.)

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(1/9/17) Svea

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(1/10/17) Karen doing all the work, as usual. (Hey, SOMEBODY has to take the picture.)

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(1/11/17) Catching some rays at Minnehaha Creek

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(1/12/17) 4:40 PM – Stained glass (made by Karen) holds onto the last sunlight of the day.

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(1/13/17) Walking on water . . . a stroll across Lake Nokomis at sundown.

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(1/14/17) The rocks in Minnehaha Creek somehow remember their summer colors.

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We won’t get fooled again — or at all.

We’ve had snow on the ground in Minneapolis since November 13 (see my post about the first big snowfall). A lot of places in the U.S. get a lot of snow — even more than we do — but many of those areas have the hope of melting it occasionally throughout the winter. Up until a week or so ago, we’d just been adding blanket upon blanket to the November cover.

Then we had a few days in the 40s and even touched 50 once or twice. Some people around here were ecstatic, but most life-long residents played it cool — because we knew.

The weather people on TV were all blabbing about spring being in the air, etc. I heard one say that our 50 degrees a few days ago was the “first kiss” of spring.

But it was mid-February and we knew. They talked every night on the news about how much snow was melting, but I looked around my neighborhood and didn’t really see a major change. Here’s a photo of my front yard today. Yeah, it was deeper a few weeks ago, but does this look like a major melt has just happened?

Does this look like spring to you?

Guess what? Now the bipolar cabin-fever mongers are all wringing their hands about tomorrow. The latest prediction I’ve heard is another blanket of somewhere between 12 and 20 inches in the next 24 hours.

Yes, we were kissed by spring last week. But it was just an obligatory peck on the cheek that promised nothing more.

It was actually kind of sad, in a way — because we knew.

So let it snow. Check back in about a month and a half and we’ll talk about showing some affection.

Dogsitting gets you outdoors

Emily and Kyle’s dog Peet has been staying with us for a few days while they were out of town. Peet’s a wonderful dog and we love having him in the house. I’ve never been a dog person, but I love this guy — and not just because he’s my first grandchild.

I’ve actually come to see some benefits (I already knew the downside) of taking him outside several times a day to take care of his needs. The first walk of the morning on a cold day is the one I never thought I’d enjoy, but I have to admit that there is something about the dark, the quiet, the crisp air, the big steaming turd in the snow on a winter morning. After living in Minnesota all my life, Peet has taught me to appreciate cold!

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Just for the record, we will not be getting a dog. And I won’t take care of your dog. But I will gladly and eagerly take care of Peet any time they ask.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that it’s also because of Peet that I saw some beautiful winter scenery this morning. I would not have been out driving around southeastern Minnesota had Emily and I not agreed to meet in Cannon Falls, the half-way point between my house and hers, to return Peet to his Mom.

I’m glad I had my camera along, because the conditions were right for one of those morning frosty fogs that whitens all the trees and makes the whole landscape look like a greeting card. I had heard about fog warnings earlier, so I had an inkling that it would be beautiful when the sun came out.

When I saw this funky sunrise over the Mendota Bridge, I knew it was going to be interesting.

So after we said our sad goodbyes to other daughter, Lauren at the airport for her flight back to Chicago, Peet and I set off across the prairie. I had a nice breakfast in Cannon Falls with Emily, while Peet napped in the car. On the way back I got my camera out, took a couple of little side detours from U.S. 52, and shot some photos. Here are a few of them.

That’s all. Nothing more to report.

I love Peet.

I like going outside with him (usually).

When I do, I see stuff I wouldn’t otherwise see.

I miss him already.

And to paraphrase Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now — “I love the smell of steaming turds in the morning. It smells like victory!”

Top Ten reasons to spend the winter in Minnesota

Kyle helps Lauren build her dream house.

#10. It makes you appreciate NOT spending the winter in Minnesota.

#9. The comforting realization that you could probably live a productive life without fingers, toes, and ears.

#8. If your favorite color is white, it’s a no-brainer.

#7. With a $5 shovel, your driveway can become a work of art.

Hand-sculpted (no snowblower here)


#6. “Hunkering down” is considered an activity.

Emily hunkers down with a cold one.


#5. Ever drive for 45 minutes through a major city and never come to an actual stop? You can do it here!

That red light is just a "suggestion". The driver has to decide whether stopping and possibly getting stuck is worth the risk.


#4. You can make a lot of friends just by pushing cars.

#3. Our new motto. No longer the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, we’re now “Minnesota: Where everything is more difficult”.

#2. You get to say things like, “Anything above 10 degrees ain’t too bad” — and mean it.

#1. Thanks to our handy collapsible stadium, you can get free tickets to see your NFL team play its home games in Detroit!

Our alternative motto could be, "Where dreams come true". Emily has always embraced the winter.

Shovelin’ it but not really diggin’ it

Is there a word that means both beautiful and foreboding?

I’ve lived in Minnesota all my life and to me, snow is no big deal. But I do see the beauty in it and I’m glad I live somewhere that has four distinct seasons, blah, blah, blah. Snow is nice to have around Christmas time and I don’t mind it too much for the first half of the winter, but on my ranking of favorite seasons, winter is still a solid #4 with no bullet.

First snow of the season (photo by Steve Date)

We got our first snow here in Minneapolis this morning and I was compelled to go out with my camera. I have a blog, after all, and this is the kind of day where people notice the beauty and reflect on . . . . whatever.

The old water tower looks good in any season (photo by Steve Date)

Almost anything you say or take a picture of about snow is a cliche. It’s all been said many times and in much more interesting ways than I ever could. I’ll admit, it was pretty this morning — a wet, heavy 3 inches (with 6 more to come by tonight). But because I was shooting photos, I didn’t wear gloves, so after 10 minutes my figures were numb. I didn’t wear boots, so my feet were soaked. The wind was blowing and the camera lens kept getting wet. So I walked around the block, shot a few pictures, said to myself, “Yup, sure is pretty out here”, and ducked back inside.

Now I have a few snow pictures that are about as good as the billion others that were taken by Minnesotans this morning.

It was in the high 60s and sunny just a few days ago, so I guess I’m not ready for this, even though a mid-November snowfall is not at all unusual. This one will melt, but it won’t be long before we get the one that stays with us until April.

There are those winter days in Minnesota where sky is deep blue, the air is clean and crisp and the snow stays fluffy and white. Today isn’t one of them. Today’s snow is wet, heavy and already starting to look dirty.

I’ll be out shoveling this afternoon, then getting the last couple of chairs and a hose into the garage and the pond pump out of the water.

I’ll leave my camera indoors.

That makes two of us