A Winter as Good as Last Year

Minnesotans—and many Midwesterners in general—love to hate their environment. If the weather is nice, we act like it’s unusual and unhealthy, perhaps global climate change.

I hope we have a winter as good as last year’s.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that, I’d have exactly five cents.

Minnesotans—and many Midwesterners in general—love to hate their environment. If the weather is nice, we act like it’s unusual and unhealthy, perhaps global climate change. Of course we basically live outside, camping and hunting despite our general inclinations to grumble and suspiciously squint towards the stratosphere. We are up there with Oregon and Colorado in the category of “outdoorsy” states. But the legendary Winter of 2013-2014, one of the coldest on record, challenged even the toughest, most committed ice fishermen to wonder why they didn’t winter south.

Not Gary. Gary loves winter. In fact, he loves the cold so much he goes north for the summer: he and his wife camp their way through Alaska during the mid-year months.

What was so refreshing in talking to a person who loves the cold was to encounter someone who knows how to thrive. We humans are picky before we are happy. We are only pleased when people act the way we want them to, when we feel in control, when the sun is out, and we are well-fed and comfortable. I was appointed to move back to a land that my East and West Coast friends think of as a fly-over wasteland. I panicked when I saw the town’s population and its lack of hipster coffee shops. I needed this conversation to find someone who sets his eyes on the less popular, the forgotten small town, the sometimes nearly uninhabitable environment, and sees a place that he loves–a place with value. His delight helps me to delight, even when the wind chill dips much too low much too soon. For now, for Gary, for Minnesota winters, I am thankful.

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