Thursday, February 14, 2013

Every snowbird has his day

I glanced out our back door the other day and was startled to see a full-fledged flock of robins desultorily pecking away at the half-frozen mix of mud, ice and snow that is our wintertime backyard.
"What the heck do they think they're doing here?" I exclaimed.
"They're kinda like us," she replied sagely. "Misguided snowbirds."
It's true, I'm not sure even I understand why we would choose to drive north during this wintry time of year. But, the fact is, we were more than a little anxious to see son Colin and his family after a holiday season spent away from them. So, after three weeks in Galva, where we hung with our peeps, did a few household chores and generally toughened up to the cold, wet realities of winter, we headed to northwestern Minnesota, despite the fact that blizzard-like conditions were forecast for the weekend we were to arrive.
It figures.
I mean, if you're going to do something crazy, you might as well do it in spectacular fashion. So why not drive directly into the teeth of a 10-inch, 40-mile-per-hour maelstrom?  Truth be told, I think we both were kind of looking forward to a real dose of winter, just as long as we didn't have to drive through too much of it or shovel any of it.  So we weren't sorry to see the first new flakes begin to fly early Sunday morning, nor did we mind it when the storm began to take hold later that day, even joining the kids and dogs for a few slides down a nearby sledding hill as the wind began to blow in earnest.
I had forgotten just how exciting it is when a really, really big snow results in a snow day, a relatively rare occurrence for these intrepid, winter-hardened northlanders. Even our smart-and-pretty college prof daughter-in-law squealed like a nine year old when the wondrous word came down, while our high-school-aged granddaughter immediately set about rearranging her complex social calendar, and the rest of us began planning menus for the steady intake of calories we'd need to survive the snowbound day.
I had also forgotten just how it goes in the real north when a big snow hits. There's a kind of esprit de corps that shows up as a veritable hive of snow-attacking activity. Suddenly, the snowhelmed street outside Colin and Geri's house was remarkably transformed on the morning after the storm, with roaring squadrons of snowblowers and battalions of shovel-wielding neighbors clearing driveways, digging out walks and extricating cars buried deep in the wet, heavy white stuff. One by one, those vehicles were shoved, shoveled and broken loose from the icy grasp of the wind-swept snow, spinning and careening through drifts and ditches towards the relatively easy going of the through street at the end of the block. The first sight of a single dedicated mail carrier marked a cheerful beginning to a new sense of normalcy, while the long-awaited appearance of a city snowplow weaving its way down their narrow residential street was greeted with the same great glee as a low-flying cargo plane dropping care packages to a starving populace.
But, here's the thing.
As I watched them work and worry and sweat and shiver in their common effort, I got the feeling that these folks up here really do have something important figured out when winter hits hard:
They're all in it together.
And that's a good thing.

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