Appreciating winter weekend mornings

It’s cold. Snow crunches underfoot. Toes, fingers, pipes and locks are freezing. It’s a cold that follows. Reminds you of shoveling and scraping and gas bills, as it creeps through cracks and seams around windows and doors, sending shivers to your core. All you want is to hide away under a blanket and keep warm, but there’s work and school and chores and errands. Life, as cold and brutal as it can be, keeps moving. That’s why I’ve been trying to enjoy our slow-to-wake winter weekend mornings.

My wife, S.B., breathes gently, still sound asleep and as pretty as ever tucked away in curls and dreams. The kids are not stirring in their rooms and with no school and no plans for the day, I don’t blame them. My eight-year old daughter won’t rise until she’s heard the clanking of breakfast’s pots and pans. My eleven-year old son will sleep for as long as we let him, or until he smells the bacon. And even though my wish is for S.B. to stay in bed for as long as she likes so she can eventually catch up on the years of sleep we’ve robbed from her, I know she’ll be up and at it within fifteen minutes of my heavy feet hitting the cold hardwood floor. So, I stay in bed where it’s cozy and warm, waiting for sunlight to break through the frosty window panes and thaw this frozen place on the shores of Lake Huron.

A dog barks in the distance. It’s a frantic bark. I envision a Husky, at home and happy in the frigid cold, bounding around a backyard, barking at a squirrel that’s walking a wire overhead. But I realize this may not be the case. It could be a mutt tied to a doghouse, or a bulldog left out too long on its morning potty break. Each icy second a moment closer to frozen paws. But before my morning takes a turn for the worse, thinking about all the pets and people stuck out in the elements, I’m saved by the sound of a neighbor trying to start a snow blower. For what, I can’t imagine. There are two inches of snow at best, it’s dark, and ten below zero. But the cold makes us do crazy things. Makes us so nuts that we haven’t a choice but to leave the comfort of our homes and get out into it. As if fighting it will make it go away any sooner. But I understand it.

There have been plenty of hard winter weather days when I’ve been pacing up and down the snowy driveway with an exhaust-spewing metal machine vibrating the snot out of me. Numb toes, burning cheeks, solid chunks of ice for feet. But not today. On this morning, the brave soul down the road, fed up with ice and snow and perpetual cold, is the one taking the battle to the street. Or driveway rather. Fidgeting with the choke, pumping the primer, pulling the cord again and again, he’s sweating and freezing at the same time, pulling and pulling until finally the little beast roars to life. A beautiful, horrible sound so early in the morning, but a great sign of humankind’s progress, no doubt. Man and machine once again taking on Mighty Mother Nature! Fueled up with gasoline, adrenaline, and half a pot of coffee. Out in the tundra trying hard to break a path through a couple of inches of snow to get his shiny pickup from garage to grocery store to secure necessities–more coffee, a couple asiago bagels, cream cheese, and a copy of The Alpena News. The snow blower idles like crazy at high RPMs for a few seconds then stops. Idles then stops. There’s one more furious burst of pulling the cord, but the machine refuses to start. Brave Soul with a Snow Blower, 0. Mother Nature, 1.

A city plow truck grumbles past our house, lights flashing as its massive blade scrapes snow and ice from the road. S.B. rolls over and throws an arm over my chest. She mumbles “too early…more sleep” and is off again to dreamland within seconds. I wonder how long the driver’s been at it this morning, if he’s been driving for many years, if he’s always had the same route. Does he ever wish to pull up the plow and keep driving? Driving and driving until the snow is gone, temperature is up, and there’s sunshine all around. Just a man and a city plow truck from Alpena, Michigan starting over in Tucson, Corpus Christi, Santa Barbara, or Key West. Oh, the possibilities, the potential, the savings on boots, thermal underwear, hats and gloves! And to know that each day will sunny and warm? Glorious! Well, at least for a little while. Sooner or later, the Michigander within would win out. He’d miss the snow. Crave the cold bite of the January wind whipping over the big lake and he’d realize that it is only one season.

Without it there’s not as much to appreciate come Spring, Summer, and Fall. Sure, there’s the scraping, the slip-sliding, the shoveling, and the long gray days spent hoping for sunshine. But it is ultimately only a moment. A brief blip in time as we spin round on this great wonderful ball of dirt and rock, hurtling through space, hunkered down in our own little warm spot on the 45th parallel. Fortunate and thankful as we close our eyes, pull the blankets up tight, and enjoy another winter weekend morning.