Another new year has arrived. The holidays are over. Christmas is
three-hundred-plus days away - and fifteen days in the past. The
Christmas tree, once the focus of dazzled, holidazed eyes no longer
glows magically in the corner of the family room. This former
centerpiece of family, friends and good times now lies
unceremoniously dumped by the curb awaiting the garbage man. I hope
he gives the thing a proper burial; may it decompose in peace (DIP)
and rejoin the natural world from which it was so rudely plucked.
Unless you're a big Valentine's Day nut, there isn't much to look
forward to until spring. Spring around here is just the second
chapter of winter.
I would love nothing more than to moan and whine about the cold,
dark days ahead. It would, at least, give me something to do.
January and February aren't exactly the kind of months that make
normal people feel all warm and fuzzy - at least not here in the
Midwest. If you're the kind of person who likes gloomy days and
icicles hanging from your nostrils you should be in your glory right
about now. I hope you're happy. It may come as shock to those
yuppies than hang around ski lodges all winter awash in money and
wine, that the common folk, like me for instance, prefer warm
breezes and bugs to "après ski". $500 ski goggles and slick designer
underwear. I know that's hard to believe - let me roll my eyes.
The Midwest is a cold, nasty, wet, windy place about seven months a
year. Hearty souls like me are either nutjobs who choose to live
here on purpose; or were born here and don't have the money to get
out - the yuppies have your share and are yukking it up at the ski
lodges with it.
I choose to live here. That tells you something about me. Nutjob.
Since we have seven months of crummy weather, we learn to amuse
ourselves with stuff like reading, TV, knitting, dominoes, cleaning,
and if the weather's not too terribly atrocious, venturing out in
the cold, wind and snow to have dinner or (Heaven forbid) traipse
around the mall, look at aluminum siding and cell phone kiosks. If
we're lucky we can even pick up a few pamphlets. That usually kills
most of a winterspring afternoon. If you go to bed when it gets dark
(that would be around 5:30PM ) you won't have to worry about killing
anymore winterspring until morning - which comes around 8:00AM - if
at all. Most of the time it's so gloomy you can't tell when the sun
rises. Sun? What's that?
In case you're wondering, which you're probably not, winterspring is
a new season I have invented. In spite of this age of "global
warning" winterspring seems to persist like a cockroach. I'm not
going to comment on global warming either. I don't care whether you
believe in it or not. I don't want a bunch of conservatives calling
me a bleeding-heart liberal - because I'm not. I'm not a
pulpit-pounding conservative either. I had to point this out because
I can just see you conservatives getting all smarmy and puffed over
my refusal to throw my hat into the ring with "global warming"
doomsayers. Conservatively speaking though, I'd like to think we can
keep on pumping billions of tons of detritus in the air, sucking
unlimited amounts of oil from the ground and never have to pay the
piper. Boy, wouldn't that be nice? That would surely keep the old
economy humming right along, the stock market soaring, and the
wealthy wealthy. It's all about money, you know. Hey! We can deal
with the lung problems and glaciers later. Let our progeny worry
There is something that bothers me about all this, though. Mom told
me when I was a kid that if you want to dance you have to pay the
piper. As I've so painfully learned too many times - mothers are
usually right. How long can we keep dancing before the piper wants
her money? (See how politically correct I am?) Just thinking out
loud here -not promoting the jellyfish-polar bear platform - so
don't get your Uncle Sam undies all twisted up in a wad. We have to
think about the piper though. She's piping away and we haven't paid
her. She's going to want her money - someday.
Anyway, here I am, stuck in the Midwest, in January, with nothing to
do but wait for spring. When it comes it will be just another act in
winter's cruel play: "Winter Act II - The Struggle of the Tulips."
The other day, refusing to acquiesce to the gloomy boredom, I
decided to take a walk in what the Weather Channel described as
"bitterly cold wind chills". Now, those of you who think the word
walk means walking from your car to the entrance of Wal-mart have no
idea of what kind of prep it takes to get ready to walk in "bitterly
cold wind chills". Let's just put it this way - if you plan on
walking at 4:00PM then you better start getting ready to walk at
3:30PM. A one-hour walk in the Midwest winter equals two hours of
time - one hour of walking and one hour prepping and deprepping
(grammarians start your howling).
I digress. I can almost FEEL the blood pressure puffing up your
carotid arteries as you read this. "What a lame brain this guy is.
Doesn't he have anything better to do but whine about his stupid
walking in cold weather. Get a life dude." To you I say "Tsk! Tsk!".
Whining is what we do best in the Midwest - especially in winter.
We don't have any mountains, but we do have ski slopes built on
hills called mountains. Not that I'm an experts on hills, mountains,
or skiing. I've never been a skier, I really prefer my legs as
straight as they can be. Broken bones might be a macho thing to some
guys. I'm not a macho guy therefore I've never had any major broken
bones. (Many ladies I'm sure will stop reading here.) I broke my
nose once but that was caused by running into a wall in gym class in
fifth or sixth grade. That was for a very good reason though - I was
trying to impress a girl. I wasn't trying to be macho, it was a
thing of biology. You know what I mean.
After putting on my UnderArmor stuff that covers every possible
square inch of things that might get cold, I put on a sweatshirt,
sweatshirt jacket with hood, hat, winter coat, waterproof winter
walking shoes - and before you think I'm pandering to your baser
instincts - yes I had pants on.
I walked out the door dressed for the arctic as it used to be before
global warming (insert a chortle here) - a polar bear's delight. The
Weather Channel's idea of "bitterly cold wind chills" and mine
differ. After twenty-minutes of walking, I was sweating. Under my
sweatshirts, coats, beloved UnderArmor and multiple layers of
clothing, my body was entirely covered by a layer of moisture that
only those who love the musky scent of dirty, sweaty athletes would
There is nothing worse than sweating under fifteen layers of
clothing while you're outside in the middle of winter. It makes you
feel like you're coming down with bird flu. Speaking in more
appropriate medical terms - it makes you feel funny. I was sweating
and feeling like I was getting sick and I still had a million miles
I digress. When I walk I have goals. Unless I drop dead in the
middle of a walk, I continue walking no matter what. I'm happy to
say I have not dropped dead even once during a walk - yet. This
pleases me much more than it pleases you, I'm sure. I've even walked
while sick and done gross things I will not mention. The things I
cannot mention would make you sick too.
Sweating like a triathlon participant, I kept walking in the Weather
Channel's "bitterly cold wind chills". Suddenly, it began to snow.
It was the kind of snow that Currier and Ives dreamed about - large,
fluffy flakes falling from a leaden sky. There was no wind at all -
no wind chill at all - nothing but a beautiful winter scene
unfolding before my eyes. The landscape was being painted by
nature's gentle brush and I was lucky enough to watch her paint.
An epiphany shook me and shivers ran through me - how lucky I am to
be alive and how lucky to witness a perfect winter scene. Midwest
winters are long and dark and sometimes boring. They're monotonous,
cold, wet and dreary - sometimes they are ugly and they are always
too long. We don't have spring anymore - we have Winter Major and
Winter Minor which I call Winterspring. That's just the way it is in
There is nothing so ugly that you cannot find some beauty in it; nothing so dark
that you cannot find light in it. I would not trade this serene,
soft, winter scene unfolding before my eyes for all the palm trees
in Tahiti. There is love wherever you look; there is beauty in
everything; there is peace in the wildest storm. You can look at
everything and see it in whatever light you want. We all decide how
we will look at thing. Love, beauty, light and peace are everywhere
and we decide how we want to look at things. Sometimes you find the
most beautiful things when you are not looking at all.
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