Winter’s beauty, today and yesterday
Today, I sit here at my desk, hypnotized by the beauty of the winter scene unfolding before me. I am sitting on the warm side of the window and gazing across the lake we live on.
It is apparent that the coldest and darkest season of the year has snuck in once more and silenced the splashing waves, sending the crying loons and noisy geese south once more. The blue waters have been effectively caped under a shimmering coat of ice, and a fresh coat of snow has put a hush all over the land. The landscape as far as the eye can see, has been transformed from summer’s rainbow of colors, to the stark black and white of winter.
It is as if we are looking at a photo negative, but yet the beauty of it all is still there, if you search for it and let it slowly develop and . . . Whoops, there goes a snowmobile and so enough of these whimsical thoughts and back to reality here.
I think back to the times as a kid when we used to drag our sleds up to the top of Allen’s Hill in Staples in the winter. Now by sled, I mean a wooden sled with steel runners. By Allen’s hill I mean a tarred city street in the middle of town that was closed off in the winter time, flooded with water, and set aside for the kids to slide down.
It was a skating rink, set on a thirty-degree angle for two city blocks. Once launched down the hill there was little you could do but ride it out at speeds that exceeded the posted speed limit for cars in town.
I had a new sheepskin coat my folks had bought me and one day I went hurdling off the track, through a couple of yards and wedged under an idling car in a driveway, burning a hole in my new coat on the muffler. I was uninjured until I got home and my dad saw my coat. Not good, my friends.
We also had an outdoor rink where we played hockey with two pieces of firewood for the goal posts. The only skates I had were speed skates, so when you took a puck on the toe it wasn’t good. We played crack the whip and many a kid found out what it was like to be airborne on skates. We all carved our initials on the walls of the old boxcar that was our warming house and set our mittens on fire on the red hot barrel stove.
We rode on an old upside down car hood on Dower Lake pulled behind a pickup truck at fifty miles an hour. Foolhardy, yes, but we did what we could to enjoy winter.
What other state in this nation has a small city of fish houses sitting on their frozen lakes? What other major city in the U.S. has a holiday parade like St Paul does in the winter, and they build an ice castle just to show off, unless the wind-chill is twenty below or more? What other small town has a fish house parade like Aitkin’s? What other state has as its official outdoor work uniform, Carhart’s and Sorrel boots?
Yes winter is what you make of it. It can be cold and forbidding but still a virtual playground for us to enjoy, and it has been that way forever. There is a red neck joke that says, “If you have prayed for snow last night, you might be a Minnesotan.”
Now go put on your three hundred dollar snowmobile suit and fire up that eight thousand dollar machine and make yourself some memories like I did. The only good way to beat winter is to enjoy it.
Mike Holst graduated from Staples High School. He lives and writes in North Central Minnesota, where he has long been active as a columnist and freelance writer. His website is www.mikeholstbooks.com.