Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winter: Participation Optional

I took some serious crap from Arizona friends when we announced our plan to move to Maine.

"You know it snows there, right?" they'd ask, "Like, A LOT."

"I love winter, " I told them staunchly, "Bring it on." I may have harbored some slight reservations about driving on icy roads. And, yeah, rattling around in the back of my head was a story I'd heard as a kid from some military friends of my parents. They'd been stationed in northern Maine, and during one truly terrible winter had even had to have supplies airlifted in to them.

But for the most part, it was true. I love winter. I think it's beautiful. I love watching the slow slide of seasons from the lush green of summer, to the bright fall leaves, and on into the monochromatic palette of winter. Spring is so much more miraculous after months of leafless trees and frozen ground drifted with snow.


It occurred to me the other day that I love winter as viewed from my window. I love its visual starkness and beauty, the lavender and blue shadows cast across the snow by the branches of my birch tree, the tiny birds at my feeder, and the grace of snowflakes falling from a leaden sky. I like significantly less the driving in slush, the slipping and falling on the ice, and the way I look in snowpants. When I picture myself going skiing, I don't picture myself whizzing elegantly down the slopes with poles tucked confidently at my sides. No, my vision goes immediately to me snuggled comfortably in an overstuffed leather chair in the lodge reading from my Kindle with perhaps a mug of coffee (lightly spiked with Bailey's) steaming on the table beside me. Sometimes there is an afghan. Out the windows around me, other people are whizzing elegantly down the slopes. Occasionally one of them falls spectacularly. I savor their clumsiness while sipping my coffee smugly.

A couple of weeks ago, after a generous snowfall, the kids begged to go sledding at The Big Hill. The gentle slopes in our backyard were boring, they pleaded, and we hadn't gone sledding as a family even once this winter! We all gamely suited up in snow pants, parkas, boots, hats, and gloves and loaded the sleds into the back of the van.

And despite being unable to completely fold myself into a pretzel to fit on one of the girls' saucer sleds, the first couple of runs were great fun. I climbed back up the hill and savored the crisp, cold air. Look at me! Outside enjoying the Maine winter! All active-like! I thought in that self-congratulatory was that always seems to invite comeuppance.

On the third run, my saucer spun and sent me down the hill backwards and off-kilter. In this position, my snow pants functioned quite efficiently as a scoop, shoveling great quantities of snow down the back of my pants. Just before the bottom, the sled hit a chunk of ice and careened to the left, while I went backwards-with-a-half-twist to the right, landing with inimitable grace on one shoulder while my kids laughed with evil glee. I retrieved my hat and sled and removed as much snow from my pants as modesty would allow in a snowy field filled with children and their parents.

While I huffed my way back up the hill, my cold-weather asthma kicking in, the little balls of ice stuck to the inside of my wasteband chose this time to begin melting, sending random trickles of freezing water down my butt. This sucks, I realized, reaching the top of the hill with damp underwear and no desire to try a fourth run. I began to daydream about my Kindle and an afgan. Ooh, and coffee.


Anonymous said...

Hahah, I live in Michigan and while we don't get quite as much snow as you, MI winters suck butt. I've lived here my whole life and I dream of having the time/money/job that allows for wintering someplace warm. Good for you for enjoying winter from the inside looking out. that's how to survive it.

Country Girl said...

Love it. I truely love Maine winters but like you mostly cuddled up inside. Although I like to get out some but more in our seasons. Love the laziness of winter cause come spring that is all over for me till late fall.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oh man, this is SO how I feel when the snow is crap and it's bitterly below zero outside. The main pleasure I get from sledding (besides my children's joy, of course) is knowing the climb up the hill is good for my legs and butt.
And the whole time I'm muttering to myself about hot chocolate & warm house.
Yes, winter outside one's window is always pretty, though!

Anonymous said...

LOL. I just cam in from walking to school with cupcakes for my son's B-day party. It's snowing like mad and my glasses fogged over. I fell and now my jeans are soaked. I can only think of warm sand and hot beaches.


Lora said...

I love your writing, and the imagery. But I'm even more convinced that I'll keep my Phoenix weather, thank you very much. :)

Jen on the Edge said...

That's quite an image you paint there, my friend.

We're supposed to get snow -- again -- this weekend. Mind you, we live in THE SOUTH, where winters are supposed to be chilly, but not Maine-like. My plan is to watch the snow fall from the comfort of my living room. Right next to my soft-as-clouds sofa is a big-A stack of books. And we'll probably bake cookies.

Middle Aged Woman said...

Michigan winters are rarely pretty. Mostly the snow is dirty and packed tight. Blah.

Cecile LeBlanc said...

Beautiful photos and words, Jenn!

Susan said...

I thought Maine sounded beautiful until I read a few books which referred to Spring as mud season. Not sure I'd be up for that. But we Californians are notoriously soft.

Tom said...

A wonderful and eloquent post, my dear.

AliBlahBlah said...

My sister in law moved from Santa Barbara, CA to Maine, which I think has to be a similar transition. I'm sure like you she hates driving in the snow, the short winter days, but she will never trade her seasons for our year-round and uneventful 'climate'.