17 November 2016

The Magic of Winter

Me on the left with my friend Marley. 1989.

Growing up in Montana, winter was always close at hand. We never spent much money on Halloween costumes because we'd end up wearing our ski pants and heavy winter jackets over the top anyway. My birthday is in mid-May but, by all accounts from my childhood, it was a winter birthday; I often got snow as a birthday present. I graduated high school on June 2 in sunny, 70-degree weather. Ten days later it dumped 14", covering my small town in tree branches which couldn't withstand the weight of the heavy muck on their new spring growth. It even snowed on the 4th of July one year, a memory which still makes me smile 25-years later.

My dad, especially, loved winter. He loves to complain about the cold now, but when I was two he built a luge off the back deck of our house in Whitefish. After we moved to Bozeman, he maintained a skating rink in our backyard for at least two winters. We didn't spend so much time skating on it, but I remember learning a lot about the science of snow and ice: melting points, ideal freezing temperatures, why you need to keep leaves from freezing into the ice. It's probably the best science lesson I ever had.

He also loved to ski. My parents met in Steamboat Springs, CO., where my dad worked as a ski instructor. They eventually moved to Montana, got married, and had kids. Both of my parents vowed to get me and my sisters skiing at a young age. We loved it. Our local ski hill let you ski for free until you were 10, so I was 10 until I was about 14. Shortness is good for something.

Throughout my life, winter has come to mean different things to me. Play, cold, ski, shovel, defrost, frustration, joy, rejuvenation. As a child, a fresh coat of white filled me with wonder. Today, a fresh coat of white refills my soul.

I've surrounded myself with people who feel the same way. I love watching my friends get excited about winter. I love seeing their faces light up, reflecting back exactly what I'm feeling inside. Right now my community of snow bunnies is giddy with joy, sharing snow memes and favorable forecasts. We're chomping at the bit to get out and enjoy the white stuff, and are envious of those who already have.

I'm grateful to have the privilege to enjoy winter, one I know is not afforded to all. I've lived through winters good and bad, and have seen marked changes in my short time on earth. Montana doesn't get snow on my birthday very often anymore. My niece, who's 10, gets fancy Halloween costumes because she can actually wear them. I can't remember the last time it snowed in June.

Winter is a cleansing, rejuvenating time. It blankets the earth in white and offers respite to our plants and animals in need of rest. It provides magical snow days to kids across the world. It's inspired snowmen and igloos and ice caves and backyard luges. It gives us a blank canvas to start anew. Everyone should experience the magic of winter.

I'm going to fight like hell to make sure my kids and their kids will have winter too. I can't do it alone. If you're interested, head over to check out the good people of Protect Our Winters (POW) and make a donation. I have.

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