February is known for leading with blah.

Here in the Northwoods of the American Midwest, February can create a strangled scream in inhabitants who attempt perkiness. “Well now. We’ve had quite a winter this year, haven’t we, with a seriously snowy December, historic Polar Vortexian cold, and seven days of school closures so far?” Just as we’re bucking ourselves up and attempting to bend our frozen arms into something like a pat on the back, we look at the calendar. So it’s February. And last year our snowiest month–the one with the most school closures–was April. People were still skiing in May.

That means, if it’s February, we’re about halfway done with winter.

It doesn’t help that the extreme cold has kept new snow from falling, and for those of us who are winter lovers, new snow is cause for joy. Sadly, we’ve had a whole lotta joy-free shivers.

Without an occasional prettifying layer of new snow, the world gets ugly.

In particular, the world of cars gets ugly.

SONY DSCDirt and oil and general car snot = dispiriting.

SONY DSCThe salt and chemicals used to treat the roads coat everything.

Then there’s the fact that our big black plastic composting bins are not only frozen shut; they’re also buried in snow. So we’ve been dumping our compost sort of on top of/next to the buried bins.

We help the neighbors feel better about their own lives.


On the other hand, I would argue that compost is strangely appealing, visually. I’d do this jigsaw puzzle.


Queer fascination with compost aside, I can also admit it’s public rot.

Fortunately, all the windows are iced over, which turns the house into a cocoon, a place where we can ignore everything outside the walls.


While there are benefits to the cocoon, it also means no one will know if one day I glance at my husband’s ear lobes and think they look like delicious hors d’oeuvres. No one will know if we start eating each other.

That’s February for you: the month when you decide your middle schooler’s haunch might fit in the slow cooker.


February…and January…and December…have also been gorgeous. Winter is gorgeous, especially when machines are kept away from it. Complaining about the cold gets really boring really fast, especially when one has central heating, a stash of teabags, and heaps of clothes–not to mention the ability to wear them in layers.

As with everything else in life, the key to finding pleasure is to engage. Truly, I wouldn’t mind if my headstone one day reads, “She didn’t understand electrical wiring, but damn if she didn’t get out there and give everything else a try.”

Indeed, I’m all for children and adults alike taking on winter with an attitude of gusto. Sitting and griping is, at best, self perpetuating. But putting on four layers and rolling down a hill and getting a snootful of snow is damn fun.

So is going out into the woods with friends and cutting down your own Christmas tree.



So is rolling snow people, especially when you give them eyes made out of rotten crab apples, which then makes them look all mascara-smudged and hungover, which then makes you name them things like “Walk of Shame Snow Woman,” which then causes you to put a Pumpkin Porter into their broken lacrosse stick hands, which then causes you to create an entire Facebook series about your snow people.



Also glorious in the winter are Lake Superior and Duluth’s Lift Bridge as steam ghosts dance around them.



Few things are more delightful than putting on snowshoes with a crew of pals and careening through powder down the side of a steep hill.


Then there’s the sledding. A good “wheeeeee!” definitely clears the passages.


In this video, Paco (aka “Panda Man”) and I whizz down the hill with three-year-old Aliya. That girl was born to compete in skeleton, I tell you. Allegra comes down after us, as a nice piece of punctuation.

[tentblogger-youtube Lhf2ZxZJ2G4]

What’s more, there are few better ways to spend an afternoon than skiing up a frozen creek tucked in behind Byron’s cute behind.


Sometimes, when I’m skiing alone in the woods, a Tomten crosses my path. I have to pretend I don’t see him, lest he scurry away.PLUM2G

For Paco’s eleventh birthday, we went to the downhill ski area for a tubing party.


One other great thing about winter? Cute knitted ear bands.


When you’re usually the one behind the camera, a view of the feet is sometimes the best way to capture your own existence.SONY DSC

There was enough cold and snow this year to hold the John Beargrease sled dog race (it serves as a warm-up race for the Iditarod for many mushers). Although we were frozen stiff by the end, getting out there and seeing all those happy doggies was a pleasure. Plus, Paco got to decimate huge chunks of ice.SONY DSC



The kids have been doing Sunday afternoon ski sessions, too. As well, Allegra’s on her middle school ski team–‘tho she has no desire to race and therefore only attends the practices. She’s gotten skate skiing technique mastered this year. Maybe some year she can teach me how.DSCN1423SONY DSC

And, finally, there is my very favorite: when the pack ice blows in to shore and breaks up into slabs of beauty.SONY DSC


If there has to be February, at least I’m glad we’re having a true winter of it.

How can a soul feel down in the face of this?SONY DSC

The kids are off from school this next week, so we’re planning to head over to visit the Apostle Island ice caves. They can only be visited during years of extreme cold, when the lake has frozen enough to allow visitors to make the mile walk out to them. During the summer months, these caves are visited by kayakers. Guess what my next post will be about?







13 responses to “Polarian”

  1. ds Avatar

    Love your winter. We have plenty of fresh snow here, if you’ve a hankering…(does the Tomten perhaps reside within your compost pile? He’d be nice and warm)

  2. Joanne Avatar

    May the joy of winter never escape you.
    The pack ice wreckage is a lovely photo, and I am looking forward to the next post. As I said, may the joy of winter never escape. You.

  3. Friko Avatar

    This is all great. Your attitude to winter is admirable and your pictures show what fun you are having.

    But, could I please just quietly, without much fuss and whingeing only a little bit, say that, February, over here, is …..erm…….really……wet? Wet is not fun, it’s miserable.

  4. kmkat Avatar

    Now THAT is how winter was meant to be enjoyed! Hope the weather cooperates for your ice cave visit.

  5. Maria Avatar

    God forgive me, but I kept thinking, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!” I do not have your cheerfulness in February. In December, maybe. February? No. I just want it to be over. I am not a cold weather enthusiast or even a stoic survivor of it. I see little beauty in snow. Cold weather makes my bones ache almost unbearably and a snow storm? I am in hell physically. So, I will leave the rhapsodizing to you whilst I very quietly sit on my sofa, wrapped up in a blanket, perusing my seed catalogs and daydreaming of Spring.

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      I can assure you I’ve been running my finger over the pages of a couple seed catalogs this week…counting down the weeks. Generally, as I do this, I’m wearing a huge housecoat of a sweater, a knit scarf, and two fleece blankets.

      Trust me, I feel you, sister.

  6. Bijoux Avatar

    Ok, I have to ask, doesn’t that compost pile attract a herd of wild animals? Ive got deer standing next to my window under the bird feeders. And that’s during daylight hours. I don’t want to think about the creatures of the night.

  7. SmitoniusAndSonata Avatar

    Lovely to think of you , tucked up in your cabin with a steaming cup of tea . Very Laura Ingalls Wilder .

  8. Jess Avatar

    I’m a little jealous of your snowy, snowy winter. I loved sledding and playing in the snow when I lived in New England. We had no winter at all here. I have shorts on today and the window is open. And the tree outside the window is covered with white blossoms. All of which is lovely, of course, but impossible to appreciate a tenth as much as spring after a long cold snowy winter.

  9. lime Avatar

    i have to confess my enthusiasm is waning what with the frozen plumbing and opened up walls with lack of insulation causing all the heat to pass right through them with minimal benefit to those of us huddling together for warmth and heck…even considering volunteering to hop in the slow-cooker. outta my way, my athletic son, my rump roast is sure to have more marbling of fat and thus be a tastier morsel than your stringy, well-muscled self!

    ah, but your winter does seem a spot more glorious even if it’s much colder….i guess it’s really all attitude. i shall endeavor to cultivate a better one.

  10. vagabonde Avatar

    You sure have a real winter. We had glimpses of winter twice, but today we are back in the mid 60s and by Thursday it will be in the 70s. Your photos are splendid – what beautiful landscape you have all around you.

  11. Green Girl in Wisconsin Avatar
    Green Girl in Wisconsin

    The bitter cold has made outdoor fun tough to come by this winter. And it’s getting a little long-winded, too.
    But yes, three cheers for sleds, skis and snowshoes.

  12. Meg Avatar

    I am so with you on this! Sitting inside and kvetching makes me psycho. I don’t mind the snow because it’s brighter than grey/brown tree trunks and dead foliage. When we get some sunshine to go along with it, I’m all, “Mother Nature! You go girl!” i’ve yet to try snow shoes, but you have inspired me.

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