Back in November, when my beloved Lake Michigan contributed to an early dump of 20+ inches of snow on my home of Kalamazoo, Michigan, I declared on Facebook that I was going to “make friends” with winter by learning some outdoor activity — cross country skiing, snowshoeing or the like. Then the early snow melted, and virtually no snow fell in December, allowing me to indulge the delusional notion that maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to do my running outdoors all winter without 3 or 4 layers. The temperate weather lulled me into thinking that perhaps I wasn’t living in the “snow belt” and that maybe making friends with winter would not actually require me learning a new sport.
January and February put me back in my place. January brought more normal snowfall and temperatures. As you all know from personal experience or at least through the news, February has been brutally cold in the upper Midwest with just as much snow. The piles on either side of the driveway are now almost as tall as me.
After accepting the fact that my workouts would have to happen indoors (except the snow shoveling, of course), I can honestly say that winter and I have certainly not become friends. We’re not even on speaking terms. Now that we’ve hit early March and still temperatures are dropping to single digits overnight, the icy blast of air in my face each time I leave the house causes tears to well up in my eyes.
Though winter and I have not become ‘buddies’ as I had wished in my November naiveté, the challenge of living through another winter season has formed me into a slightly better person. After much time spent in yoga, prayer and meditation, spending 1-2 hours shoveling snow no longer causes me to spew strings of profanity worthy of a Quentin Tarantino film. I have to admit that I actually enjoy the gratification of clearing the snow (even if our lovely lake effect snowfall ruins my work all too soon.) Winter reminds me that I need to slow down, perhaps even take some appointments off my workaholic, full-throttle schedule. Having to spend at least 15 minutes donning layers to protect me from the cold before I leave the house reminds me that patience and preparation are key parts of day-to-day living.
Winter is the way God reminds me that I am both fragile as glass and tough as steel. Though I can’t possibly survive for long outside in the subzero temperatures, I manage to do remarkable things (or even just normal day-to-day things) despite the challenge of trudging through snow and ice wearing 20 extra pounds of clothes. Winter reminds me (along with my yoga practice) that warmth comes from a source much deeper than the house’s HVAC system and my precious Smartwool socks. Extreme cold, like extreme heat, hones and molds your system in remarkable, if uncomfortable, ways. The cold forces you to be present in the here and now long enough to plan your clothing layers and stay upright on the ice slick on your driveway.