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Taking note: A long journey home

The gusts of wind just kept coming. Thumps and strange noises in the distance indicated these gusts had the power to rip down tree branches and send recycling bins tumbling over.

The very bones of my house seemed to rattle and creak. It was a strong wind, one that made me glad to be inside, safe and warm, listening to it howl.

It was a wind that seemed like it should carry inches upon inches of snow, but nothing fell.

In fact, the little bit of snow on the ground was melting, helped along by several hours of sunshine during the day.

This is the type of early December weather I found myself wishing for this time last year, when much of the world had seemingly been buried under inches — or maybe even feet –of snow for weeks.

It’s the gentle type of weather I look back upon and long for when I encounter an early December that requires endless shoveling of snow, scraping of ice and quite a bit of caution while walking or driving.

While I’d love to make a snowman or go sledding, I’m grateful for winter’s gradual, delicate approach this year, for the lack of furious blizzards and constant hazardous conditions.

We just never know what December will bring.

Each year, I wonder if it will be green grass or mountains of snow.

Even when I lived across the country, in the desert, I couldn’t help but ask friends and family for winter weather updates as I strolled upon dry sidewalks, past rose gardens blooming in the Arizona sun.

“Has the lake frozen yet?”

“How much did it snow?”

“Was it the fluffy kind or the heavy, wet type of snow?”

“Did you have to get out the snowblower today?”

“Have they closed any roads?”

I had never been more fascinated by snowfall and winter weather.

Although the winter was one of the most beautiful times to be in the desert, taking bike rides surrounded by gardens, citrus trees and cacti in the 70-degree weather and sunshine, I couldn’t help but long for the crunch of my boots atop the snow.

And even though I knew it would be a shock to the system, I always hoped that there would be some cold, snowy weather when I’d return home for a few glorious weeks over the holiday break.

I don’t think I was ever disappointed in this regard.

Although the landscape was frozen, coming home to winter was like a warm embrace, returning to the family, friends and landscape I had missed all year.

Hugging my parents, catching up with friends and returning to my childhood home amid the snow seemed to make the holidays even more magical than they were when I was a kid.

Family traditions were revived, classic holiday dishes from my childhood were made, old board games were played, snowmen were built, long conversations and embraces were shared.

And then there were the cold, beautiful walks on the beach and in the woods by my childhood home, going out to breakfast with my mom at our favorite restaurants, going holiday shopping at all the local businesses I had missed.

I looked forward to these moments all year.

In the days preceding these trips, I’d eagerly fill my suitcase with prickly pear jams, cactus candies, little gifts from the annual outdoor holiday art sale in Tucson, and the few winter-appropriate clothes I still owned. And all the while, I’d be counting down the moments until I could start the trip home.

Those long journeys back to the Upper Peninsula — despite being filled with 3 a.m. drives to the airport, challenging parking arrangements, delayed flights, lost luggage and poor driving conditions — were filled with joy and excitement.

Even as I waited for my plane at the Phoenix airport and watched as a teal suitcase that looked an awful lot like mine was left on the tarmac by the baggage loading crew, I couldn’t help but smile, knowing I’d soon be boarding that plane and headed back to the frozen north, with or without my luggage.

Because no matter how many stressful moments or inconveniences popped up along the way, I knew it would be well worth it.

My family, my childhood home, my friends, and that cold, beautiful landscape awaited me at the end of the journey, even if my suitcase full of sweaters and gifts didn’t make it.

And although it’s been several years since I’ve had to embark on a long journey to be with family for the holidays, I try to think about these challenging days of travel as a metaphor for handling other situations.

The journey may be long, difficult, and filled with a few mishaps, but if we’re excited about our destination, we can find ways to smile about all the little challenges along the way.

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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