The Long, Long Winter of Our Discontent

canstockphoto1508295Mornings seem grim these days. The sun may be shining brightly, but many of us are buckling down in our ice-encrusted houses waiting out this unending winter.

I woke up worn out by a dream that played over and over again. I witness a car accident. The car is on its side, in flames. I’m standing in a crowd and see a man trying to climb out through the car window. People all around me pull out their cellphones to dial 911. I rush forward, trying to pull the man up and out of the burning car. I drag him to safety while talking myself through a fireman’s carry.

People are still talking on their cell phones. They may have been taking pictures. I’m tired, coughing from all the smoke and I notice there is a second person in the car. I start begging people to help me. I do not think I can save this person on my own. No one helps. I awaken, frustrated, desperate and depressed.

For the umpteenth morning in a row, it’s below zero with a windchill factor in the negative double digits. We are supposed to get more snow today, which really means nothing. The frozen tundra of our urban landscape, melt-off frozen into sheets of ice on the roads, means the ice will be more slippery, if that’s even possible. We’ll go through the motions – ice skating lessons, workouts at the Y, grocery shopping. I’ll notice, with a dull glumness that we’ve tracked more salt in across the rugs that I’ve cleaned for the millionth time.

The washer is broken. We apparently purchased a washer running on alien technology, since no one had the $20 parts we needed to make the fix. They are coming from the UK and no longer cost $20. Piles of snow outside, piles of laundry inside. I try to rally, picking away at small projects, trying to at least keep the rest of the household caught up. I’m a third day in the same jeans.

I have seed catalogs, but even they fail to brighten my spirits. I know that long before the planting, there will be weeks of tree trimming, soil amendment, fence re-staining. They’ll be different chores than the winter tasks and will seem better for being outdoors, but it’s hard to imagine now.  As much as I try to enjoy the winter landscape with ice skating and cross country skiing, I know I am a visitor in the hostile lands of the White Witch, who would rather freeze me where I stand than allow me to luxuriate in the beauty.

I’ve often said that I like living in the upper midwest. I like definitive seasons. We used to make jokes about snow birds who fled to Florida and Arizona. I understand them now, even in middle age. The joints move more gently, the skin doesn’t dry out and crack, the spirits don’t flag starting in early February from the long brittle days and the nights when the furnace can barely keep up with the plummeting temperatures.

The brain is going wobbly, leaping from one morose thought to another. My husband turns 50 this year and it hits me that even if he’s lucky enough to live long, he’ll die in the next 50. That I am three years younger has padded me mentally against having the same thought for myself. My thoughts continue along this path and I snort at my nearly comedic desolation.

canstockphoto0278524With a sigh, I pull myself up out of the reading chair, lift the window shade and see the drifting of large snowflakes to the ground. The furnace grunts and kicks on, seeming as fed up with winter as the rest of us. Thank goodness that winter is much like the pain of childbirth – forgotten once life begins. Spring will wipe the slate clean, our relief more like gratitude than a simple change of season.

43 Comments

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43 responses to “The Long, Long Winter of Our Discontent

  1. It’s hard to be optimistic with another foot of snow on the way.

    • I’m a champ at rallying under adverse conditions, but wow, I’m just done with this winter! And Minnesotans are getting really, really crabby. Even the perkiest among us are wavering in cheerfulness. It’s no longer “Minnesota Nice” – more like “Minnesota Barely Tolerable but Don’t Even #$@! Talk about the Cold or Else I’ll Kill You Where You Stand.” Maybe that’s just me.

  2. We are currently living the same life. The snow never stops, our appliances keep breaking and it was so cold yesterday that the rear window on the car shattered. Not even the seed catalogue helps.

    I do hope that the memory of this long winter fades quickly when things start to green up again.

    • I know – with these temperatures, everything outside is so brittle and breakable! It looks like our temps will finally start climbing next week. It’s funny when this happens, because people go absolutely nuts, acting like it’s a tropical heat wave. I like to imagine that in a month, all this snow might be gone. But after this year, it’s going to be a mess to clean up. Tree trimming is required because heavy snow and ice broke so many branches. Everything is salt-crusted since they use it on the city streets. Sigh.

      Well, here’s hoping our winter memories are erased sooner than later!

  3. So well put. I’m in Wisconsin, and though I’ve always loved winter (until mid-February), this is the first year I’ve wanted to relocate.

  4. I’d like to send some of our warmth your way, Michelle, but all we have is 63 degrees. Wait, to you this is probably heat right now. So I’ll send it anyway. Btw, what does that dream mean to you? Fire. A burning car with two people inside. One gets out, the other one doesn’t. You try to get him out, but you don’t get any help. Then you wake up.

    • My favorite temps are 60-70 degrees, which is why I like central and northern California so much. I was born in Oakland and stationed with the army at the Presidio in Monterey. I thought moving farther north in the midwest would suit me and it has for the most part. I think this winter has been exceptional.

      If I were to interpret the dream, I would say it represents my waking struggle to accept that I can’t do everything myself. I’m trying to build a creative life, but still coming up against my habitual inclination of trying to be all things to all people. The feeling of frustration is fairly accurate!

      • Maybe you don’t have to do everything yourself, Michelle. Maybe you could ask for some help and that would be ok? Or maybe you don’t have to do all the things that you do. Perhaps you could let go of some things and just ‘let the chips fly where they may’. It might be liberating. Life will still go on.

        • I’ve been letting things slip away, one by one. It’s uncomfortable, but I imagine I’ll get better at it. I just want the important stuff left – family, creative endeavors, health and time outdoors (eventually).

  5. I am so sorry y’all are having to live through that horrible winter weather. I don’t know how you do it. Probably the same way I put up with the 100+ highs for days on end in the summer; run from air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned store and always, always, park in the shade. :-)

    I have in on good authority that Spring is on its way, so hang in there!

    • I think temps in any extreme are a challenge! I do have to say, though, I find heat much more intolerable than cold. I’m likely where I need to be! I heard rumors of spring, too – in the form of several robins declaring outside my window, against all signs to the contrary, that it would be here soon.

  6. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    And the washer is broken! You have taken the difficult world you are in now and written beauty for your readers. I hope it helped a bit.

  7. I’m in Texas and it’s been a hard winter for us too, but…I just want to make note of the writing. Noted as good!

  8. Not quite as bad here in NYC, but this is still the most brutal winter we’ve had in quite a while.
    I have a hideous Hawaiian shirt on the chair next to me. The hope of wearing it soon gives me hope.

    19 days til spring!

  9. I doubt that it will make you feel any better but our forecast is calling for windchill of -49 F tonite. While most everyone here echoes your sentiments, I see it as winter’s last gasp. I’m usually the one taken down by events but not now. Perhaps it’s because I find summer temps of 90 F just as bad or worse or perhaps there is a certain perverse pleasure in being the contrarian. Whoever knew that would take me to a more positive place?

    • I can hold out against the majority (a perverse pleasure for me as well), piping on about how I don’t mind the cold, but this week broke me like the proverbial frozen straw. Two major snowfalls, subzero temperatures, school cancelled.
      I can feel much the same way about heat. Every summer I am convinced that we need to migrate farther north, but we were in Winnipeg the last couple of summers with no relief from scorching temperatures.
      Here’s my positive spin: There is something delightful about living somewhere where everything gets killed at least once a year. Unlike southern regions where everything stays creepy crawly and invasive year round (gardener’s perspective, I guess).

  10. I’m trying to hang on to the fact that the days are getting steadily longer even if the weather isn’t cooperating. It’s ugly here, the snow piles are filthy and not at all like the lovely photo you posted at the top of your post. The downside of living in a densely populated area.
    Let’s hope we all get a Spring break soon!

  11. Does that old lore about March coming in like a lion and leaving like a lamb hold true, I wonder? Maybe there’s some slight solace there. I’m hoping so at least, as I look out at the fresh snow outside my own window right now.

  12. You said it sister….. long winter… much discontent. Moods have sunk to new lows. Yesterday I ordered flowers for a friend, and the clerk asked me if I wanted something seasonal…. I responded with out even thinking…. No No More WInter!
    (She worked sunflowers into the arrangement.)

    • Ha- I’ll take something seasonal – from an entirely different season, thank you very much! Sunflowers are lovely. And tulips and hyacinth and crocus…sigh.
      Hang in there, I see some light at the end…forget it, I can’t even muster happy talk at this point!

  13. I firmly believe Minnesota is for the young. When I lived there, I took great pride in spending hours behind the snowblower. Driving through a blizzard and getting myself unstuck from a skid into the ditch were just modest skills any Minnesotan learned. And then there’s the Winter Carnival in the below zero weather—thousands of people in their long johns and boots admiring ice sculptures! It was all part of the “Look how freakin’ tough we are” attitude.
    But, it’s hell for folks who suffer from SAD or other forms of depression. All that cheerful resilience makes a person want to punch something. If I had even half a chance, I’d RUN to Arizona and stay there.

    • I do not admire that attitude here: “look how tough we are”. Tell me that after you’ve had a few frostbitten fingers removed. I’ve been thinking about nature and the fact that living here is patently unnatural. When being outside can kill you, it’s good to be aware of one’s frailty as a human.
      As for Arizona, I’m not sure I’d like it there, either. There are so many snakes – and that’s just talking politicians!

  14. Tim

    I know what youmean. Here in the UK the issue is widespread flooding rather than snow, but the persistence of misery – constant stories of flooded homes, displaced families, opportunistic thieves, transport chaos etc etc – drags everyone down, particularly given that it will take months for the saturated water-table to clear. This despite us Brits loving talking about the weather!

    • We have been fortunate on many fronts, but when you wake up, as I did this morning, to -15°F (-26°C), the cold isn’t the only thing that is bitter! Since we do have have extreme conditions here as a rule, nothing structural happened. I am sorry to hear about the misery in the UK. If I were a paranoid person, I would wonder at all the natural disasters in the last few years, from typhoons to fires to flooding.

  15. Reblogged this on Women Empowering Women of Michigan and commented:
    I think the blah of winter has set in for those of us that get winter depressed. Don’t let that stop you from being the best you that you can Be! #getitdone

  16. It’s been a long winter. It harkens back to the winters of my childhood before all this global warming! The snow is deeper than I’ve seen it in a good long time! Hang in there, the equinox is just a couple of weeks away.

  17. I couldn’t agree more with all of this. We’re all just so done with this winter. It feels like it’s seeping unhappiness everywhere at this point.

  18. We must be channeling the same grim karma. I’ve been dreaming stress dreams and my washer is broken too. I also am waiting on a part.

    Part of the stress is that we are selling our house. While on vacation, I got a call from our Realtor telling us that the (brand new) furnace failed and our pipes are frozen. I asked the furnace guy what happened. He acted like I was an idiot. “It conked out,” he said. :(

    I love living in the Upper-Midwest but right now I would settle for yurt in the desert. [grumble]

    • Our washer is finally fixed and the thaw over the last few days has finally made me feel less grumbly. Whew! This has been a long season. I hope things are looking up for you as well. Now we can listen to everyone complain about the flooding and mud. I feel compelled to shut up after all my winter griping!

  19. Sue

    I feel exactly the same, but I just keep thinking how many emerald ash borer and Japanese beetle larvae this intense cold will kill, and then I say, bring it on! But today is sunny, and that changes my mood about everything!

    • Please, please kill all those Japanese beetle larvae! They’ve been horrible the last 3 years, haven’t they? We are so intent on not using pesticides, but I have to say I’m tired of the merciless drownings in buckets of soapy water. Still, the hint of spring is definitely in the air. It’s amazing how things change in the course of a week.

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