One morning recently the temperature was 30 below zero. Maybe a few degrees colder, but at that temperature a few degrees – give or take – aren’t important. At that point, it’s all relative. It is cold. Very, very cold. Still, it could have been worse. (I’ll explain in a minute.)
I was visiting friends, sleeping over in the loft of their log cabin. North of Crosby, Minnesota, their home is situated on many acres of beautiful woods – Sugar Maples, Paper Birch, Norway Pines – and a meandering river. The property is wonderful. Beautiful. Homey. Welcoming. So are the people who live there.
They take good care of their patch of earth with conservation efforts that seem effortless. I admire them. They serve as a great example of hospitality and care for people and the world around them.
They have cows and horses. Chickens and a noisy rooster. Endless piles of split wood and outbuildings they use for unique things, like the sauna that doubles as a grandkid’s cabin or the yurt that serves as a massage therapy space. Inventive and resourceful people, they are.
In the cozy loft, I awoke at 3:00 a.m. to the roof making noises. Creek! Groan! Pop! At first my mind imaged acorns falling (plunk!) but I soon became conscious enough to realize the house was protesting the cold. I had looked at the forecast the day prior and knew a bitter cold was setting in.
The warm air inside, radiating from two wood stoves, was arguing with the cold air outside. The heat rising to the roof was a comfort to me, but the cold snap outside was making the building sound like a bowl of exaggerated Rice Krispies. Snap! Crackle! Pop!
I listened to the roof. Me: snug in warm blankets as I waited to fall asleep again. My mind started getting busy, but I scolded it like a stern mother. Shh… quiet now, go to sleep. My mind must have obeyed because the next thing I knew, I awoke to light dawning on another morning.
The roof was still complaining when I padded down the stairs in bare feet. I smelled coffee and burning wood. Mmm. Good morning. I gratefully accepted a cup of caffeinated life from one of my hosts and peered out the back window at the horses. They were bolting back and forth in their pen. I assumed they were exercising to keep warm.
My friend said there might have been a wolf nearby. It had been around before, and the horses did not like it. I didn’t blame them. Wolf or cold, the horses persisted in their relay race from one end of their pen to the next.
I thought about the animals outside in the extreme cold. I used to feel sorry for them, the outdoor animals. Then, at some point, I realized my emotions did not help their wintery situations at all. I settled on the thought that the cold was something they simply had to endure, like everyone and everything else here in Minnesota. Pity does little to nothing to change a situation. More nothing, I think, than little.
I watched the horses for a time. Then, I went outside to start my car. I had an appointment to keep and wanted to warm the machine before driving away. It was a good idea. The car gave protest, like the roof, by making noises. Ruuuurrr… Ruuuurr… Eventually, it started.
Back in the house, my friends and I discussed the weather. “Yeah… 30 below… but hey, there’s no wind. And it’s sunny.”
Throughout the morning, at my appointment and running a couple errands, I heard similar phrases again, from other people. “There’s no wind…” or “At least the sun is out…” Yes, 30 below could be worse. Thirty below on a windy, cloudy day would make it less tolerable. Maybe. I wondered why 30 below wasn’t bad enough? Couldn’t everything in life be worse (or better)?
It’s a thing we Minnesotan’s do sometimes during winter. We look at the bright side. It is, perhaps, a coping skill because who likes it when it is 30 degrees below zero! Who? I know I don’t and I’m a winter-lover!
By the afternoon the temperature soared to zero. Still cold, but it was sunny and there was no wind. Very tolerable. Very. The following day was forecasted to be a partly sunny (or partly cloudy if you prefer) with a low of negative 10 and a high of six degrees. Wind? Seven MPH. Not bad.
I heard that groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw its shadow February 2. That means six more weeks of winter (as opposed to an early spring). This is the time of year even the hardiest of Minnesotans start waiting for a warmup. Still, I suppose it could be worse. We could be facing seven more weeks of winter. Or eight. Or nine…