Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Descent of Winter

Earlier this year I moved to Duluth MN, which for many weeks of the year can claim to be the icebox of the US. While there's no telling where the heart will lead, in my case it was here. Susan has been here since 1979 and that was good enough for me.

To be sure, others come for the salt-of-the-earth people, for the thriving art scene along the North Shore, for the glorious views of Lake Superior, or for easy access to the output of Bent Paddle Brewing—but what people don't do is to come for the balmy weather. (There are better locations for working on your tan.)

Although here it is October 6th and we still haven't experienced a killing frost (Susan and I harvested fresh basil this afternoon), the "high" tomorrow—and I use that term loosely—is projected to be a crisp 45 degrees. So here we go; time to make sure that the furnace filters are clean.

Fortunately, I like winter. To be sure, I don't particularly like ice, but I love creating a warm cave in our double bed each night, snug beneath the down duvet. I love hot soup for dinner, accompanied by cold butter melting on steaming rolls. I love how the diamantine stars dance on a clear new-moon night in January, sometimes accompanied by a curtain call from the Aurora Borealis.

In Duluth we expect the summers to be shorter and the winters to be longer. Even knowing that however, it's hard maintaining a good attitude in the face of spring's shy appearance. April is the cruelest month of all—when the calendar says it's spring but the ice persists in the harbor, delaying the start of the shipping season, as well as gardening. In anticipation of that Susan and I have finagled a Schaub sibling rendezvous in San Antonio for the first weekend of April in 2017, which we expect will net us a 30-degree gain in differential ambient temperature (we'll be trading 40 degrees in Duluth for 70 degrees in San Antonio—quite the upgrade). Will we be ready or what?

It was interesting this summer (when I was in Rochester for five weeks, getting my stem-cell transplant) that whenever I told folks that I was from Duluth, most southern Minnesotans commented on how lovely it is up here. This stood in sharp contrast with the opinions offered by most of my friends (living in balmier climes) who immediately expressed sympathy for what they considered my Nordic exile. (Oh, you poor boy.) Over and over I've had to explain that I like living in Duluth. Winters have never been a  problem for me, as long we've had enough dry firewood and good caulking around the windows.

As the thermometer drops, Susan and I start turning our attention toward holiday cooking opportunities: there will be Thanksgiving next month, followed by Christmas. Those are chances to warm the house from the kitchen outward, with good food marinating with family and good company. Somehow the food tastes better when it's cold outside.

Winter is also the best time for reading. For a couple years now I've been on a serious campaign to reduce my material possessions, with special attention being given to the enormous volume of books I've gradually aggregated over the years. Essentially I'm trying to turn around my habit of buying books faster than I read them. As a frame of reference I've plowed through 23 titles in the last quarter. As soon as I complete a title (I tend to alternate between fiction and nonfiction and have very eclectic tastes) I turn it over to Susan: either she can hang on to it to read herself (maybe one in four), we send it on to Goodwill, or I deposit it in one of the free lending libraries sprouting up in Amtrak depots these days. Slowly but surely, we're debooking the house, and I'm having a lot of fun getting exposed to all manner of ideas and wordcrafting.

You just gotta like winter.

1 comment:

elklectic said...

Sometimes you are adorable!