Tomorrow it will be eight degrees for a high here in Watersmeet. A nice breeze will make it less toasty, though. I’m going skiing.
Nothing unusual about that. I’ve been out cross country skiing on 10 of the last 12 days. I love winter. I love cold weather.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with people who retreat to places like Florida this time of year. If a person lacks the perseverance, the pride, the tenacity, the determination, the endurance, the can-do spirit, the ingenuity, the courage and the overall good character to stick it out through a complete Upper Midwest winter, well, they deserve our sympathy and, maybe, a 12-step program. It’s their loss.
What concerns me is that the character-building that comes with cold weather may be denied to future generations. Almost all of the many sound arguments about the dangers of human-caused global warming focus on increased natural disasters, like flooding and wildfires, and on economic dislocations as growing seasons and rainfall amounts shift. Those are all very real and tangible, but very few people talk about the cultural impacts of warmer winters.
My friends at Wheel & Sprocket, a chain (pun intended) of bike shops in southern Wisconsin have now, for the first time in their 50 year history, stopped selling cross country ski equipment. The snow is just too infrequent down there. I used to love skiing at Blue Mound State Park and Indian Lake County Park, but now I’m able to do that maybe one in five years. Last year was a rare good year for skiing in Dane County, but this year is back to what has become normal, which is to say crummy. Hence, I’m spending a lot of time in the U.P.
Same goes for snowmobiling, which is now mostly confined to areas north of Highway 8, except for exceptional years. I’m a silent sports guy, but when I hear snowmobiles in the distance from my ski trails, I don’t get annoyed anymore. It sounds like economic survival to me for the businesses I enjoy up here. All those snowmobilers will be buying gas and staying at hotels and crowding into supper clubs in the evenings. My own choice of prime rib specials tomorrow night at a half dozen supper clubs within a half hour drive is brought to me courtesy of all those folks in insulated bib overalls sitting at the bar. Cheers.
But here again I find myself drifting (another pun intended) into the hard economic realities, when I mean to focus on the soft stuff. I just enjoy the snow and the cold and the drifts for what they are, even if they didn’t mean cash for businesses in the north. I love splitting maple logs for my fires. I love the feeling of thick wool coats and blankets. I love the taste of a manhattan (with walnut bitters) and sharp cheddar cheese and sausage (venison when I can get it) in front of that fire as the wind howls outside.
And, in fact, I love the feeling of spring when it arrives as it should (up here in the U.P.) in late May. By then it feels like I’ve earned it. Seasons — full seasons — are one of the great pleasures of living in this part of the world.
There aren’t really any climate deniers anymore, in the sense that nobody can deny the real impacts of a warming planet. And even the debate over whether it’s human-caused is starting to wane. Former full deniers have now retreated back to the argument that it can’t be helped and some of it might even be good. Who doesn’t like shorter winters?
Let me raise my hand to that. I love winter and the loss of weeks of it at either end is a tragedy just as real as flooding and fires.
Welcome to the 358th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!