A very neat thing happened recently: the earth woke up (officially) in Minnesota. It’s a bit late. Disappointingly late. We’ve skipped a rather large chunk of time that is generally much anticipated and often taken for granted.
Many people who deal with the awful winters in the Midwest, particularly in Minnesota, are desperate for slightly warmer weather once winter has sunk in for more than two or three months. It’s not uncommon to see that dude wearing shorts as soon as the temperature hits 34 degrees. We all know the dude I am talking about. The one still wearing a parka, but it is unzipped
revealing some type of skateboard logo on a t-shirt, rocking a pair of cargo or basketball shorts and wearing Converse that will inevitably become soaked as soon as he steps into the street.
When it hits around 35-40 degrees the hefty winter coats are usually put away and the mid-tier jackets come out. Because, you know, living in Minnesota means having enough layers or jackets for every 10 degree difference in weather because it is insane here. Some people rock the winter coat look until it reaches a safe 50ish degrees. I am far too impatient for that and when March hits prefer to stubbornly wear a peacoat that is meant for weather in the 50 degree zone, regardless of the temperature. Sometimes a sweatshirt alone can be worn, but that’s usually a mistake due to the fact that I’m a huge wimp when it comes to cold weather.
This is the uncomfortable transition period of the year. Everything is awkward and dirty. The grass is brown, the trees are naked, the roads are covered in salt and dirt, and the sky is this sickly blue color. Not a true spring blue, but a cold, hesitant blue to match weak sunlight. Most people are super pumped for the snow to melt abruptly and for spring to roll out in a steady and timely progression. March is for some random snowfalls, maybe one last blizzard, but it should melt pretty quickly. April should have the promise of, at the very least, 40 degree weather that flows into 50 degrees and up. Maybe a little snow and some rain. That is fine.
These are things that did not happen this year. This year winter was a monster.
It held on hard and did not let go and everyone cursed it and hated it and moped about it, but it continued to ominously stick around. There was no break this year. It was consistently bitter and snowy until, like, April 18th. Actually there was one week in March that got up to a balmy upper 30s, but that ended pretty fast. For those of us who are generally depressed and/or have Seasonal Affective Disorder (hello to both) it’s no surprise that an occasional day of decent weather can do wonders for the heart and soul. It’s also no surprise that my soul has felt like a little dried up raisin since December.
I’d like to take this moment to point out that I dislike the sun in many ways. I’m far too pale and if or when I do get burnt there is no tan, but a transition from red to white like an unfortunate human candy cane. I dislike overly warm weather and humidity and am allergic to most things in nature. And yet, I love the very specific time of year when it smells like spring and things start to grow again. Above all else I desperately miss seeing color. Watching the earth wake up is intensely refreshing. Maybe it brings the hope of new things and new seasons, or whatever. Maybe it’s just a sign that we’ve survived another winter. I just want to see some color and get some plants and grow them on our front steps. That’s enough to make me happy.
It’s also always kind of weird to suddenly see people outside doing things again after going months without seeing anyone outdoors unless they’re headed to their cars or into buildings. The funny thing is how quick people are to forget how brutal winters can be. It slips so easily from the mind that barely days ago the ground was caked in ice and dirty snow piles littered parking lots. When winter ends it seems to end abruptly, or at least this one did. I think I got whiplash from how we went from a blizzard one weekend to leaving coats at home and wearing light sweatshirts the next.
This winter in particular has made me look critically at my mood over the past few months. January and February are known to be gross, cold, and icy. Those months we just grin and bear it, hoping for an early spring. But March is a wild card and this year winter did not end when March did. There wasn’t that escape of warmer weather and kinder attitudes. The weather stayed bad and people got crabbier and more tense. The optimism for spring withered up as April carried on with threats of more snow, more cloudy weather. There was none of the usual color promises from buds on trees or brave tulips. Instead we got a bonus blizzard. Then another one.
So my mood spiraled downhill. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
The garbage weather also had a weird effect on me that made me especially stubborn this past month, and also rather tense and anxious. Something in my brain must have snapped a bit, maybe because my birthday is at the end of April and if I wasn’t able to roam around in just a sweatshirt by then I’d go insane. Maybe I was drawing on my last reserves of creativity but was falling into a writers and artists block with a whole winter to back me up. Maybe I was just plain salty about life in general.
It started a few weeks back when I naively thought we were finally going to see spring, so I put my little ceramic gnome friend that was a gift from my Grandma on the front porch. He sat there through a blizzard and an ice storm like a champ, and I didn’t put him back in the garage like I should have. After the first blizzard I put a turtle plant holder outside as well, which also got snowed on a few times. I refused to wear my big winter coat halfway through March and stopped wearing winter boots, hats and scarves between my car and the office. I forced myself to draw things regularly and spent an above average amount of time observing a few plants above the kitchen sink to see if they were going to make it. I even started going to the gym and somehow didn’t hate it?
None of it mattered. The everyday winter routine started to get stifling back in January, so by March I was just plain anxious all the damn time. Well, more than usual. As much as I dislike being outside, the trapped feeling from being confined in a house, an office, and back to a house starting eating away at me. The phrase “cabin fever” was tossed around at work and I became sick to death of checking the weather app on my phone in hopes of seeing a break. This is the longest winter I can remember, and has been incredibly trying in many ways. The claustrophobic weather caused me to start thinking critically about a lot of things recently, including my life choices. Specifically, what to do with them and how to make ends meet while doing the things that I love for a career.
Do I want to follow through on a steady job full of stability? Do I want to follow my strengths, risk it all, and seek a more creative lifestyle? Do I simply need to look at things in a different perspective knowing that some change will occur naturally and other changes will involve more risk?
Spring is finally here, which will cause the anticipated ripple effect on everyone like it always does. For people like me, who think a lot about change but do little to make any big leaps unless absolutely forced, maybe it’s time to stop dragging my feet and be a bit bolder. The use of seasons changing is an easy metaphor to use in this scenario. It’s much harder to actually make significant changes in real life as opposed to writing about them and comparing them to weather. No temperature fluctuation is going to cause me to suddenly leap into a perfect outlook on life. But seeing the sun once in a while (as long as it doesn’t touch my skin) and at least recognizing that it might be time to try something new might help make a difference to push me in the right, or at least a different, direction.
So, thanks a lot, winter. You sucked, but gave me a lot to think about in the end.
Renee Brown is a freelance writer living in Southern Minnesota who really does have more interests than being a member of her generation, but you’d have to ask her about that. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JinjahSnap.
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