Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Hate Winter

I wrote previously about truly enjoying the freedom to celebrate Christmas and other holidays with my parish and then celebrating them with my family.  That remains true.  Winter, in her devious scheming*, however, seems to persistently attempt to derail my plans.  That is, at the root, the reason I hate winter and believe that it is an evil resulting from the fall of man.  Given that this is my blog, I shall now elaborate at some length defending this otherwise irrational position.

As I have noted, winter has a way of interrupting the most well-laid of plans.  The last three days serve as a prime illustration of this point.  My family, unable to gather for Christmas proper, finally agreed that we would gather for our own celebration December 31 and January 1.  For that reason, I was able to enjoy a glorious Christmas Day and several days thereafter.  Knowing how deceptive Winter might be, I kept an eye on the weather, but was thrilled to discover, as the time of our family gathering neared, that it appeared that the weather would cooperate.  Sunday predicted scattered snow flurries for Friday, as did Monday and, on the site I was checking, Tuesday.  Apparently the site I used is unreliable, though, because that same Tuesday my mother called to inform me that my youngest brother would not be able to come until later.  He was concerned about the until then unforeseen blizzard that was to arrive Thursday and continue howling through early Saturday morning.  I was, as one might imagine, unamused (my mother can offer a more detailed account of this fact).

As predicted, the wind and snow set in on Thursday.  At some point my mother called to tell me that my next younger brother and his family were braving the wind and snow and were making their way to the ranch.  I wanted to do the same, but thought it unwise.  I would hopefully still be able to get there on Saturday.  Trying to make the best of the situation, I went to Borders and bought some new books with Christmas gift cards, and then enjoyed the company of several seminarians and their parents who came to the rectory for dinner on Thursday evening.  This was followed by a ridiculously long evening of playing cards at the neighbors' house, and a lengthy excursion into one of the new books before going to sleep.  Setting my alarm clock for 10:00 AM, I relished the knowledge that I would get a full eight hours of sleep.

My phone rang at 7:30 AM.  "Both of your brothers are here," my mother announced to me cheerfully after I had scrambled around trying to find the damned phone and croaked a greeting.  "They said the roads were fine."  "That's nice," I responded.  "I am going back to bed.  My alarm is set for ten.  I will talk to you then," I assured her in a most pleasant way (again, for the details, consult my mother).  At ten, I arose, called home, and foolishly decided to make the trek to the ranch with assurances from my brothers that the roads had been good when they traveled them.

Locals can attest to the fact that Rapid City has a most ingenious snow removal system.  Apparently, each vehicle that passes over the snow filled streets necessarily takes a small quantity of snow with it when it passes, thus rendering actual snow removal equipment almost unnecessary.  This system works so well that I am inclined to visit the person responsible for the city's snow removal and punch him in the nose.  After being nearly killed in town, I finally made it to I90, and gave thanks to God that the highway was mostly clear.  That is one benefit of a strong northwest wind.  The snow never has a chance to accumulate on the interstate.  Occasional white-out conditions notwithstanding, the roads were pretty decent, and I arrived home to join the Christmas celebration already in progress.

Winter lost this battle, but it was only one of many in which we have engaged.  As it stands, the score is decidedly in winter's favor.  Last year's Christmas trip led to a most pleasant interlude wherein I patiently awaited the arrival of my father's four-wheel-drive pick-up to drag me from the ditch less than ten miles from home.  As I waited, I could not help but recall a similar experience from several years earlier on the entrance ramp leading to one of Minnesota's Rest Areas when I had to be winched out of the drifted snow by a tow-truck.  More than once, winter has forced me to cut short a school break so as to be sure to arrive back on campus ahead of the weather.  Likewise, winter regularly prevented my leaving school for vacations at the planned-upon time.  Moreover, winter and I have many shared memories of treacherous trips made from Wall to Red Owl along the Elm Springs road, a variety of cow related events in the bitter cold, and a truly dreadful day spent falling down at Terry Peak.  Winter has repeatedly placed me in the position of having to decide if an event should proceed as scheduled or not.  Rightly or wrongly, I would feel responsible for the accidents of a person coming from or going to an event I should have canceled. 

For me, fond memories of winter are hard to come by.  I can intellectually acknowledge that I had fun in the winter and in the snow as a child, but these memories conjure no wispy feelings of nostalgia as do others.  Instead, the season suggests manifold ways in which I might go careening to my death.  Even writing about winter, my stomach knots a little, my teeth clench, and when I stop typing to review what I have written, my hands clench.  With the lack of sun, the bitter cold, constant lethargy, a bleak world view, and the promise of doom always on the horizon, I simply cannot look out my window to a blanket of fresh snow and marvel at its beauty.  Instead, I swear.  That always seems to get the day off to a good start.

In the end, though, I hate winter because, when encountering her icy grip, I have no control.  I know that the notion of control is but a facade, but, as with so many other things, I am loathe to relinquish my knuckle whitening grip on a plan and its outcome.  Without control, I must give leave to God to do as he will, and even after many years of trying to do so, and after telling so many others in the confessional that they must do so, I find that I am frequently unwilling.  Usually God is polite and he asks us for things.  Winter, more than any other season, though, is a show of force on his part.  He stops asking us to abandon a false sense of control.  He just takes it.  It is a lesson as bitter to me as the winds that blew for the last three days, and the lesson becomes no less bitter with the passing of each winter.

At the end of a rant like this, one will doubtlessly ask, "Why are you in South Dakota?"  It is a fair question, and I have to admit that at this time of year, I find myself asking the same question sometimes.  Here, however, is home and the Devil you know is better than the one you don't.  And besides, when one hates winter as I do, there is nothing more glorious than Spring.  We are only 108 days from May 1.

* I have a rather bizarre friend who insists that he has the power to command the snow at will.  He apparently acquired this power after having his own vehicle problems on I90 during a terrifically cold winter's day and having walked a good distance for help.  He tells me that he "communed with Lady Winter" that day, and she has given him special powers which he is able to exercise by performing a ritual he calls the "snow dance."  He is only half- joking when he tells me these things.  Anyway, because he makes constant reference to "Lady Winter" (a lady in the same way that Typhoid Mary was a lady by my estimation), I find myself automatically assigning feminine pronouns to the season.      


  1. That just might be the best post yet! And to think of all the Nordic and winter living people who's blood runs in your veins!
    For shame! You might want to try that falling down thing at Terry Peak again. :-)

  2. Father? Believe me when I tell you that you are preaching to the choir here! Hope you don't mind my linking to a long ago post with my opinion of winter!

    Winter is best appreciated by those who get to stay behind a huge picture window rather than someone who actually has to go out.

  3. This. Is. Spectacular. (And quite funny.)

    Rage on, Father!

  4. Amazing. How very Narnian of you LOL. Ice and snow, bless the Lord! ;-) Maybe you should get yourself a Hummer or snowmobile or something.


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