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Taking note: Winter Wonders

It was one of those mornings in late autumn that oddly felt like springtime. A thin layer of ice was slowly melting on the pavement. Water slowly dripped from the roof. Birds sang in the distance.

Although it felt a little like early April, the moment was all the more beautiful and peaceful against the blue dawn light of late November.

It’s that weak, beautiful type of light that seems ever-present this time of year, at dawn, at dusk, and even in the afternoons.

It’s this type of late fall light that I learned as a child to associate with approaching snowstorms and holidays.

It always takes me back to how I felt this time of year as a kid, all the excitement about December’s rapid approach.

This distinctive type of late autumn light meant it would soon be time to spend time helping my family decorate, bake cookies, shop for presents and all the other activities that make this time of year so delightful.

And while the holiday excitement would all come and go in a little over a month as it always does, there were other sources of excitement that would last the whole winter: sledding, building forts, snowmen, snow sculptures, all the endless possibilities for creativity and play that came with so much snow.

It lent a certain type of magic to the blizzards and the tall snowbanks, knowing they were fodder for months of fun.

Although I’ve never loved the cold, it was always with joyful anticipation that I’d bundle up in boots, snow pants, a heavy coat, a hat and gloves, and head outside to play in the snow.

And this was largely due to the winter wonderlands that my parents and I would create in the backyard each winter when I was a kid.

Snow sculptures, artfully arranged icicles, miniature snow forts, and of course, the best part of it all, the sledding hill.

Each year, as soon as there was a substantial amount of snow, my dad would start shoveling, snow blowing and piling up snow to create an elevated mound that would gradually grow higher as more snow fell and was added.

Paths would be made, steps would be cut out into the side of this manmade hill, and sleds would be used to break it in until a smooth, but not too slick, surface was created.

And just like snowflakes, each manmade sledding hill was unique to the year and its weather pattern.

Sometimes, that sledding hill would be well up and running before the New Year. Other times, it would take longer, into the deep winter months, for that amount of snow to accumulate.

But no matter what the season brought and when the hill was completed, those days of sledding and building felt endless and joyful.

I think it’s because my parents showed me that winter was always an opportunity to get creative, to build, to explore and imagine.

And still, to this day, no winter activity brings me more joy than sledding and creating sculptures and structures out of the snow.

It brings me back to all those beautiful moments spent with my parents, the way they taught me to find delight and opportunity when the whole world was buried under feet of snow.

And even when the end of the winter fun was in sight, there was still more to enjoy. For several years, we created an annual “spring puzzle.” At first, these puzzles consisted of cardboard that was decorated and then cut into pieces, but eventually, they evolved into painted ceramic pieces, vibrant and sturdy.

Regardless of material, the point of the puzzles was that the pieces would be divided, wrapped in foil, and hidden deep in the snowy yard. As the snow began to melt, the hunt for the hidden pieces would begin. Sometimes, it seemed to take months to find all the pieces, especially when the melt was slow.

But it was always a sure sign of spring once the puzzle was completed.

And although the wait for spring seems longer than ever this year, these fond winter memories give me inspiration and hope.

They remind me of all the fun that can be had outdoors with friends and family this time of year.

They remind me of all the things we can still enjoy together over the winter, even when indoor visits might not be wise.

They remind me that there’s always a way to find opportunities for creativity, joy and love, even when the season seems long and bleak.

And that’s what these long, cold months are really about: unearthing the joy that sometimes seems buried underneath all that snow.

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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