Remember way back at the very beginning of this blog, over ten years ago now, when my plan was to update it every single day? I felt like a letdown when I decided that once a week was a more reasonable schedule. Now it seems like I’m lucky to get one out once a month.
Partly it’s because I feel like I’m not doing anything interesting enough to write about. I go to work, I do stuff on the computer, I come home. But that’s a result of me letting the trivial day-to-day eclipse all the cool stuff I actually do. Last weekend, for example, I went to a comedy adaptation of “The Most Dangerous Game” that had incidental music scored and played entirely by my housemate Currant. Then, directly after that, he and I went to another friend’s “dream lodge” night, which is what you get when you cross an adult slumber party with a candlelit, incense-permeated ritual. We drank rose-and-burdock tea, chewed bearroot from the mountains, and talked about our dreams and how to get more out of them. Waking up the next morning felt like waking up inside an ancient legend, even though we were in a living room in Minnesota. Yesterday I went to my first square dance, and made a commitment to go urban exploring with someone I met there. Today I went to an Ojibwe storytelling. Winter is storytelling season for the Ojibwe; you can only tell stories while there’s snow on the ground. The storyteller today was a woman who’s worked at an Ojibwe-language immersion elementary school for many years, and she had everyone pick out a puppet before we started from a swarm of them she inherited from her teacher when she passed on. Then whenever our animal came up in a story, we had to get out in the middle of the circle to be a part of the story: I was the loon (maang) that got shot by the three-inch-tall little brother when he wanted to prove he could be a big hunter.
So if you ever find yourself wondering what I’m up to out in Minneapolis, check the clock, and you can take a pretty good guess:
- Business hours on weekdays: computer stuff.
- Evenings and weekends: probably something amazing.
- Nighttime: sleeping, or maybe something amazing.
But actually, the main thing I was planning on blogging about today wasn’t any of that cool stuff. It was the winter. Specifically, how I don’t see what all the fuss is about.
With the reputation Minnesota has everywhere else in the country, you’d think the winters here were like the Shackleford expedition. Clearly, if you step outside for any more than about thirty seconds in Minnesota in January, you’re sacrificing at least a finger or two to frostbite. If you spit out your gum outside in a Minnesota winter, when it hits the ground it’ll shatter. I was actually kind of looking forward to such a grim, soul-hardening season: afterwards, having survived, I could tell people: “Do your worst. I’ve lived through a Minnesota winter. I’m ready for anything.”
But it turns out it’s really not that bad. We’ve had one pretty good cold snap so far, which meant a few days where my bike ride to work was about –10° or –15°. That’s cold enough to get your attention. It’s the kind of cold where, if you fumble around with your keys too long at the garage door without any gloves on, your hands will start to sting and smart. But with proper gear, my ride to work was bearable and even comfortable. Of course, several of you reading this helped make this true. The Bar Mitts that Dad got me for Christmas are like keeping my hands inside a heated building while I ride. Those plus the down gloves from Grandma and Grandpa are an impenetrable combination that make me feel like I could ride to work even in Yellowknife. I might need to convince the Bar Mitts company to create a pair that fits a dogsled.
As for my face, if I’d tried to weather that cold snap without the ski goggles from Dan, I might have one less face now. The bottom half of my face is still here too, but that’s a weirder story. I was coming obliquely home from work one day, and I came to a crosswalk at Hiawatha Avenue, one of the big ones through town. From somewhere behind me, a woman yelled for me. “You look cold,” she said once she’d gotten my attention. “Do you want a face mask?” I told her I had a scarf, I’d just forgotten to bring it. “Are you sure?” she said, pulling a neoprene face mask out of nowhere. “I’ve got a ton.” And she handed it to me practically before I could say anything else. By the time I finished saying thank you, she’d walked off down the path the other way and promptly disappeared. But that face mask does an unparalleled job at keeping my nose and lips from crystallizing.
One of my favorite bits of winter gear, though, gets that title purely by virtue of how ridiculous it is, and that’s my big giant hat. You might remember this thing from several years ago:
I made it, but I never wore it, because first it was way too big, and then once I fixed it so it didn’t cover my eyes, it turned out that it still caught the wind and tried to escape from my head and crawl home to the forest. But a couple weeks ago, I finally fixed it for good: I put some drawstrings on it. Now it stays on and it’s a real, usable hat. However, despite a bit of a haircut that I gave it, it still looks eighty or ninety percent as ludicrous as it did in that picture. It’s like a caricature of a hat. But around these parts, that apparently scores good marks with people. If I wear it anywhere where there are people, I’m basically guaranteed to have someone come up and say, “Where did you get that hat?” “Can you make me one?” “Nice hat!” “Can I just pet your hat?” It’s the most effective conversation starter I’ve ever made. It’s also functional. It’s pretty much exactly as cozy as it looks. It’s like wearing a hug. It’s probably as close as a human can get to knowing what it’s like to be covered in fur.
So all in all, I’m enjoying this winter, I really am. Bring on the cold. My hat will eat it alive.