Icing on the Cake

With winter fast approaching I always laugh at people who bundle up like they are headed out on a trans Siberian adventure when they are merely going to the mailbox at the end of their drive.

Living in Wisconsin the number of complaints filed to the weather gods rivals that of the daily postage arriving at the North Pole this time of year. People curse the cold, stomp their feet, and proclaim loudly about how much they hate winter. What is the reason for so much animosity? The cold temps, messy roads, snow to shovel? With all the energy that goes into hating winter isn’t there at least one positive? Oh yes my friends, there are many.

Ice fishing! The best tasting fish of the entire year are the ones caught through the ice from December through March. Every winter I drag out my Fish Trap ice shack and treck across frozen backwater sloughs to my favorite spots. The crisp air stings in my nostrils and through watery eyes I survey the bays for the perfect local to drop a line. It is either feast or famine out there and while nothing beats sunfish fried in butter, just a few hours out in the peaceful quite of my shack melts away the stress of a long work week.

Hiking! I absolutely love going hiking in the winter through snow frosted forests. Like a sparkling wedding cake, the landscape is perfectly iced without a single flaw save for the tracks of woodland creatures going about their winter routines. The clear sharp air clears my lungs and the most minute of sounds is amplified and carried to my cold nipped ears. Squirrels rustling, deer foraging, and birds of prey swooping almost silently down into the snow to catch a meal while the sun reflects off of crystalline surfaces painting rainbows on pure white templates. Every sense is heightened in winter. Unable to succumb to the sluggishness that warm weather fosters, the cold has a way of heightening and sharpening awareness of ones self and ones surroundings.

I could go on and on extolling the joys of the season and I am a firm believer that people who partake of the outdoors regularly, no matter the weather, are happier and, as a result, healthier people. I am living proof of this in the fact that I can feel a change in me when I have not had enough time in the wilderness. Headaches become frequent, irritability takes over, and my mood becomes generally glum until I get outside for a few hours. Yet there are those who think I’m crazy for feeling this way. The outdoors is my therapy, my spa, my place of renewal despite the weather because there is so much to experience when you head out into the woods, fields, and valleys.

Tell me how one cannot find beauty and peace while standing amid falling snowflakes. Angel feathers dropping from the sky to gently kiss upturned faces. Or the watercolor glow of a January sunset melting across sky and frozen land like a overturned painters pot spilling warm color before darkness falls. How can one complain about the cold when bearing witness to mornings following a fresh snowfall when every twig and surface is flocked in lacy white sweaters knitted by unseen hands?

There is beauty in the death that signals winter. Life yet to be discovered and savored with each icy breath, each crunching step. The cold months are a time of inner renewal, a time to explore and push ones limits and find splendor where others see only despair. Perhaps the sole purpose of winter is to serve as a test, a test of endurance, a test of appreciation, a test of imagination. Or maybe it is what I have called it all along; a gift.

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