The hearty souls of the Midwest (Redux)!
This is a reposting of an article I published last year. We’re entering the time of year (in the Midwest) during which we often go from summer like temperatures, to vicious cold winds–in a few hours. Yet, take heart ye of the northern climes, we are a hearty lot, so start the process of preparing your minds now because there is merely a month until Thanksgiving.
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This is the time of year when many living in the northern states think of moving south. As the temperatures plummet and the snow piles grow, more-and-more people complain and declare that this will be their last year living in the so-called snow belt. Yet, few move—and the reasons they do not relocate are many; however, the majority living here are hearty souls who enjoy the definite turn of seasons we journey through each year.
As someone living in Chicagoland, I can attest to this truth after living through decades of weather that is always changing. For example, on November 29, 2016, the high temperature was 57 degrees (Fahrenheit), while on December 19, 2016, Chicago experienced wind chills running 77 degrees lower. In the span of a few weeks, Chicagoans went from a beautiful autumn climate to snow and ice filled landscapes shrouded in surface temperatures that plunged to dangerous levels for human skin. Nothing new for us, we experience such changes throughout the year.
We fight back against the winter weather every day. We scrape our cars clear of most remnants of the icy proof nature dropped on them. We shovel our sidewalks and drives and salt them to make them safe for us, and for those passing by. When snow hits the region, we enter traffic jams that sometimes can rival those endured in Los Angeles. We buy unique products for all these battles—shovels, snow blowers, salts, winter jackets, gloves, hats, boots, scarves, special windshield washing fluids, ice scrapers and sometimes clear plastic film for our windows to seal out more of the cold. We have fireplaces and furnaces that are kept busy throughout the season, and manufacturers of blankets love us.
Most of us do not flock to the south during the cold months; instead, we go sledding, skiing, ice skating, and play hockey whenever we can. We build snowmen and have snow ball fights. We don’t become shut-ins during the cold months; we embrace the journey.
When big snow falls hit, we prepare our attack on the powdery stuff, plotting where we’ll put all that snow and how we’ll remove the white stuff. With a hot cup of coffee or cocoa in our hands, we watch from a window as the snow falls, making everything become part of a pristine and gorgeous white landscape. When we first step outside after a significant snow, one of the first things we notice is the increased quiet as most sounds are muffled by the blanket of snow. The noises of trucks and cars barely make it to our ears. For those first hours after a strong storm, the sights and sounds are almost majestic.
We do this because we love our families and they join us on on our journey. We don’t run away because, despite our complaints and objections, we enjoy the challenge of making it through another winter. There is nothing quite like the onset of spring for those living in Chicagoland (or any of the northern snow zone states). Most years, when March hits and temps raise to the 40s and 50s, smiles cover our faces, and we often reach for a sweater, rather than a jacket. We watch life return through the rains and showers that soon follow—green grass often is the first hints of better weather. Then we see buds on trees and bushes, and soon the region explodes with a visual resurgence of life. The occasional early bee or wasp is seen seeking new nests after their long winter seclusion. Then the sights and sounds of baseball in all its forms surfaces (Little Leagues start practicing, Major Leagues gather in the sun-swept south, and golf courses and public parks prepare for opening).
Easter crosses our seasonal path, and we see the spectrum of spring colors filling our churches. It’s an annual awakening that can only be truly appreciated if one endures winter first. Spring, summer, and fall, are nature’s gift to us in the snow zones—and we tend to enjoy the gift of good weather far more than those who are not challenged by temperature drops, snow, and ice. We stuff enjoyment into our calendars with outdoor parties, cooking all manners of foods on grills, creating festivals and carnivals for almost any reason—and we hit the beaches, baseball fields, pools, and golf courses. We know we have limited time to enjoy good weather and we make the most of it, year in and year out.
Interestingly, something revealing happens each year when school days’ return, and the first hint of autumn touches our faces—we smile, because by then we’ve had enough of the heat, we are looking forward to a crisp cool day when a sweater feels wonderful, or a blanket wrapped around us gives us just enough warmth while sitting by an outside fire pit. Taking in the incredible colors the fall leaves offer each year becomes a longed-for event. At this point, we are not outside as often as we are in the spring and the summer, but we’re still packing in as many outdoors days as we can by going to the season’s final baseball games, or heading to our favorite high school football game, or taking the big plunge and going to a Bears game.
In many towns across the USA, citizens will enjoy an 80-degree pleasant day, and then the very next day they’ll feel shocked when the mercury plummets two degrees but, in Chicagoland, and places like it, we take 70-80 degree drops in stride—we’re ready for it and we think nothing of it when it happens. In our area, there is a saying, “if you don’t like the weather, wait an hour.”
Now to be sure, this is not for everyone, and some do leave the north for warmer southern climates. But there is much to be said for the human need for experiencing something different. Winters can offer quite a challenge but, they also provide a distinct difference in our lives. Few would say weather in Chicago is boring—it keeps us aware and ready, it provides us with a difference.
For all those winter warriors, in Chicagoland, and across the nation—embrace the season because it won’t last. In 2-3 months, we’ll see the first signs of spring and our spirits will soar with all the natural beauty coming to life around us.
Hearty souls indeed!
What do you think? Are snow belt people hearty souls?