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Winter blues?

It’s not exactly breaking news that it’s already been a long winter here in the Upper Peninsula.

But still, a long winter — or any winter in the U.P. — is one of those topics that seems to always merit discussion.

Maybe it makes the months of bitter cold and seemingly endless snow a little easier when we talk about it.

Or, at least it helps us remember we aren’t alone in the experience.

Plus, as generally hardy, optimistic people, it doesn’t take long for U.P. residents to start using the tried and true winter phrases to put a positive spin on things and make ourselves feel a little better: “Well, it wouldn’t be so bad without the wind.” “I heard it’s supposed to get above freezing this weekend.” “It’s nice to have good snow for the skiers.” “I didn’t have to get the snowblower out for a few days.” “It’s only a couple more months until April, and then it will only be another month until the snow is completely gone.”

Yes, winter provides a great deal of conversation fodder and many opportunities to empathize and connect with one another.

But still, this challenging season leads some of us to find to ourselves wondering: “Why do I live here?”

I’ll admit it, this question has crossed my mind quite a few times this winter. And every winter. Especially after living in the desert for a couple of years and returning to the U.P.

So it’s probably no surprise that I find myself missing my former home in the American Southwest the most during this season.

While January through March tends to be called “the dead of winter” in the U.P., those months are sometimes called “early spring” in the desert.

These months make up one of the most unforgiving seasons here, but I think of them as representing the kindest and most beautiful season in the Sonoran Desert.

I think of daily walks and bike rides spent in the gentle rays of the winter sun and the scent of the early blossoms perfuming the temperate air.

I think of the early spring green that all the desert plants seemed to take on, the hints of new life and enduring life in all places.

I think of the lush rose garden on campus that I always made a point to pass on my way between biochemistry class and a small office where I tutored psychology students and ate my lunch.

I think of the grapefruit tree in my backyard, growing heavy as the fruit gradually ripened under the early spring sun.

I think of the vibrant citrus trees — which would eventually litter the sidewalks and streets with overripe fruit later in the year — found in the residential neighborhoods of central Tucson.

I think of sitting barefoot on my porch, admiring how my yard’s pair of palm trees framed the view of a succulent-filled garden across the street.

I think of waiting for the cacti to bloom in the latter half of the desert spring, always keeping my eyes peeled for saguaros topped with their fragrant hats of white blossoms.

So why am I here if I loved those winters so much?

I’m here because I also remember the distress I felt after spending several months in the middle of a desert city without seeing a body of water or a drop of rain.

I’m here because I remember the time, money and effort required to escape the city’s endless strip malls, pharmacies and traffic to explore the breathtaking natural areas in and around Tucson.

I’m here because I can easily access beautiful, wild places, even if I’m short on time, money or energy.

I’m here because I want to see my family, friends and hometown more than once a year in the dead of winter. I’m here because this community has been a beautiful, nurturing place for most of my life.

I’m here because there’s nothing I feel I need to escape.

Well, except for winter. But I’m going to head out west for a little vacation in a few days anyway.

And hey, I think it’s supposed to be in the 30s today. Plus, at least it’s only two more months until April.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cecilia Brown is city editor at The Mining Journal. She lives in Marquette and can be found hiking if the weather’s nice, or curled up with a book if not. Contact her at cbrown@miningjournal.net.

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