If ever there was a year to write a winter manifesto, this is it. We've been buried in snow, frigid temperatures, winds, and ice for what seems like an eternity-- and we're only halfway through the season.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining. I love everything about deep snow drifts and cranking woodstoves and yes, even countless layers of wool and fleece. To borrow a favorite word from my third grader, I'd say this winter is totally "epic."
But...I catch myself hiding inside more and more. Spring clothes keep migrating back into my closet, as if by switching my wardrobe the weather will suddenly switch to warm rays of sunshine and blue skies. Winter is just plain starting to lose it's luster. I know I'm not alone in this-- coffee shop chatter, Facebook posts, school parking lot conversations-- lots of folks are done with snow. Over the cold. Hunkering down (slightly grumpy) and waiting for April to arrive.
Here's the thing: we live in northern Michigan, and by golly, that means something. It means making the most of our seasons. It means celebrating our favorite places during the less-crowded months of the year. It means having a million adventures steps away from our front and back doors. It means we ought to do our best to make the most of winter, especially a winter like this one. Because when people from other places think of our area right now, they either shudder and wonder how we're surviving, or they say (slightly awed) "people Up North know how to handle that kind of weather. They're tough."
So I say let's be tough. More than tough. Let's embrace the weeks...er, months we have left of snow and cold. Let's write and live one epic winter manifesto. Here's a few suggestions to get started-- we'd love to hear other ways our readers are making the most of this winter, so please send thoughts, ideas, pictures our way.
-- Get outside for twenty minutes once a day (reduce to 10 if frostbite warnings are in effect). It can be a walk downtown-- the sidewalk snow piles in Harbor Springs are a must see-- or birdwatching in your backyard. The point is to get beyond the initial chill factor. Be aware of how very alive you feel with a deep breath of cold air. Notice the way familiar landscape shifts under blankets of snow.
-- Find a reason to exercise. It can be a challenge to get motivated when it comes to layers, gear, and plain ol' get-up-and-go mojo this time of year. Instead of using that as an excuse to stay curled beneath blankets, check out all the great group opportunities to gather outside in February. The Outfitter's Women in the Wild snowshoe hike at Five Mile Creek Nature Preserve on February 25 is going to offer stunning views of a rarely traversed preserve. Their weekly Wednesday night cross country series at Nub's Nob is perfect for all skill levels, with drop-ins welcome. Continue to check our "about town" section to find more outdoor, winter-fun events.
--Change your perspective through a camera's lens (even if it's just an iphone). It's been a long time since we've seen this much snow in northern Michigan. Make a checklist of things you want to capture: swooping drifts along rooflines; pines drooping under the weight of snow; forests with skeleton trees lined white; icicles reflecting light; a windswept shoreline; funny shots like the three feet of snow on top of the Pepsi machine at Harbor Car Car.
-- Go for a "cold read." I'm sort of obsessed with this idea. One of my favorite winter activities (one I don't do nearly enough) is to sit on my front porch with a steaming thermos of tea and sometimes a headlamp on for added light, with a good book. I don't know what it is about reading a great story in the cold-- I just know there is something magical about getting up while its dark or the sun is just rising. Layering clothes and figuring out which gloves will work for turning pages (I like my mittens that have the top flap that can slide off to reveal fingerless gloves). It's something everyone should try at least once, and I know from firsthand experience that our friend Katie Capaldi over at Between the Covers has great suggestions for what to read out there. Soak in the solitude and quiet, the wind that makes the ground dance, the words on a page.
-- Play! Simple, but so easy to forget. Have you flopped back for a snow angel? Built a snowman or fort or quinzee this year? Invited neighbors to sled or throw snowballs or climb up giant piles left by plowtrucks? Kids do this so naturally. It's no wonder they rarely tire of winter. We grownups, even those of us who still have small children at home, sometimes need a little more prodding. Make a point to play at least once a week, even if only for a minute or two. Winter, perhaps more than any other season, offers all of us a chance to recapture childhood just for a moment.
Here's to a whole lot of fun and adventure in the coming weeks. Feel free to share your winter stories and photos with us, by emailing email@example.com. We gladly take the old-fashioned kind of mail too-- 211 East Third Street, Harbor Springs, MI. 49740.