The Joys of Snow
Dana Williams
I've lived in Ohio now for over three and a half years. The one thing I haven't really been able to adapt to is the relative lack of winter. Sure, winter exists, but it seems to come and go in a half-hearted manner, not snowing much, not getting too cold, and the weather and snow-accumulation widely oscillating.

My Minnesota upbringing has raised me to expect winters of multiple-feet deep snow drifts, temperatures dipping to twenty below Fahrenheit, and a winter that extends from Halloween through March.

The aesthetics of winter have always been very stark for me. A sense of overwhelming silence and stillness, beautiful whiteness on all surfaces, deathly frozen trees and bushes. The people move slower, with a certain deliberateness. Automobiles drive slower (or pay the price and slide off the snow and ice packed roads. Schools are frequently canceled, events delayed, people “snowed in” their houses, cars not starting, and other indicators of slowdown.

Of course bad things can happen too: car accidents, seniors slipping and hurting themselves on slick sidewalks, the occasional person who gets locked outside and freezes to death, seasonal depression which drives some to suicide, winterstorms knocking out electrical power for long periods of time. But, with this rare suffering comes a feeling of strength and will. It also brings out the best in humanity, as people frequently pull-over to help people who have driven off the road to provide them shelter and assistance in calling a tow-truck. You can feel the determination of a people to resist and take whatever Mother Nature has to offer, and deal with it the best they can.

Outside of the stresses of wintertime also comes its most wonderful side-effect: snow! If there is one reason to live closer to the Poles, is to be able to experience snow. I always look forward to the coming of winter-- not because of the cold temperatures and frigid winds, but because of snow. The seasonal change is an endless source of excitement, as well as a means to anchor life in a natural ebb-and-flow from year to year.

Within my memories of youth, the strongest and best have to do with snow. Sledding at Riverside Park close to the Mississippi River, dodging all other kids' sleds going down, and slowly trudging back up the long hill in my bulky snowmobile suit. The snowball fights with whomever would wage one with me; it was of course not always pleasant if the fight was rooting in some actual anger and better if it was good-natured, but alas. Making snow angels and snowcaves (especially the latter) proved to me just how wonderful snow was. I remember spending entire weekends making snowcaves by myself or with my brother Jeff, just to spend 2 minutes laying inside of it, until we got cold. It was water, but in the most incredible form a child could want! You could pack it, shape it, roll it, mold it, pile it, smooth it, nearly anything given the right conditions.

Even now, in adulthood, I find snow electrifying. My mischievous desire to engage in [willing] snowball duels continues, as does my somewhat perverse desire to move snow around, shoveling it. I also enjoy biking in it, although moderately dangerous. I try to remind myself to go as slow as I need to, to keep my eyes welded to the road in front of me (and any approaching traffic). In doing so I find the swerves, slides, spinouts, and spinning back tires to be amusing and fun. Of course, I may just be crazy. I like winter driving for the same reasons-- and in many respects both driving and biking seems a bit safer than summertime, dry-weather roads, since others are intentionally more careful and conscious of the dangers. It may not really be safer, but it sort of feels that way!

In Ohio, winter is a lame winter (the last month or so not withstanding). The temperature warms up enough for all the snow to melt into a gray, sludgy mess. How unattractive! The salt thrown about on the roads cause all the cars to become the same color: gray.

The people seem to complain more about winter, even though there's is a less intense one, than do Minnesotans. Perhaps this is because Minnesotans resign themselves to long months of that weather, and have psychologically accepted it. Here, winter is an annoyance, with snow itself being the focal point for their rage and scorn. Minnesota would never cancel school for two inches of snow or a temperature of five degrees. Hell, that's typical in Minnesota! But, it happens frequently in Ohio.

I must seem like a wacko to Ohioans, with my love and snow-embracing behaviors. Oh well. I figure they just don't get it, and probably won't, since they didn't grow up in Minnesota.