One blustery night last winter, I found myself sitting in the driver’s seat of my little red car with my forehead resting on the steering wheel in defeat.
It was about 1 a.m., and my car was stuck smack in the center of Wisconsin Street in downtown Eau Claire. City plows hadn’t yet cleared the road to my then-house, and shin-deep devil snow smothered the street as far as my tired eyes could see.
Exhausted after a bartending shift, I gave myself a quick pep talk and circled back to my trunk for a shovel, all the while wondering to myself why I live in Wisconsin. I started to dig.
If it’s not yet clear, I have beef with winter. It’s cold, and for a really, really long time. The roads are a mess. My car gets stuck, on average, three times a week.
But in recent years, I’ve come to the realization that having beef with a season that takes up a third of the year is mentally exhausting. I thought of countries rumored to actually enjoy winter: Finland, Norway, Sweden, etc. I made a New Years resolution to deliberately adjust my attitude toward winter and seek out the beauty of the season.
Over the last year, I forced myself outside for hikes and various outdoor activities more often, even when it was cold. I learned to relish warm fireside moments complete with a good pair of socks, coffee and a book, because you just can’t get that in the summertime.
For those who love watching sunrises — I absolutely do — winter is great because the sun comes up later, thus allowing more time to snuggle up in bed. The colors reflecting off the snow aren’t so bad, either.
There’s even beauty in falling on the ice, as I discovered one night last year.
The sheer ice had concealed itself well underneath a fresh dusting of powdery snow. My rump and left elbow stung from the impact. Remembering my promise to appreciate winter, however, I smiled and figured the smearing of snow my fall left behind looked a bit like modern art. I snapped a photo, which is attached to this article.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of winter, I found, is the people who move through the season with me.
There’s something about brutally cold weather that makes us kinder. For every time my car refused to move past a pile of snow, there was a set of hands willing to help me out.
Now, when I look back on that bitterly cold night after my bartending shift, I don’t think of the negatives often associated with being stuck in the middle of a snowy road at 1 a.m.
I think of the stranger whose head was tucked down against the wind, snow blustering around his coat- and boot-clad figure as he trudged along the sidewalk. Perhaps he was close to home, a warm bed waiting for his arrival. I think of how that stranger forsook the quick way home and instead committed to helping the tired bartender push her car up a snowy, icy hill.
Winter in the Chippewa Valley might be cold. It might be inconvenient. But it’s also ripe with beauty and kindness, and that makes the whole mess worth it.
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