Midwest winters can be brutal, and this season has been particularly long. This time last year, golf courses were open in Minnesota; when I look out my window today, I still see 2-foot snowbanks lining our street. But the sun is out, the birds are chirping and the snow is starting to melt.
When St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, we’ve usually reached warmer weather — 40- to 50-degree days, like we had this week, and more hours of sunshine thanks to daylight savings. More and more people can be seen taking walks after dinner. Just the other day, my neighbor was playing basketball with her son in their driveway. And yesterday, my coworker found plants budding in her yard.
A lot of people wonder how we do it (even some who live in our great state), but it’s always been a no-brainer for me: I love the change of seasons. My family is here. My friends are here. The work I love is here. And the people are great: highly intelligent and well read (despite what you saw in the move Fargo), engaged in politics and culture (behind New York City, the Twin Cities boasts more theater seats per capita than any other city), and generally friendly and trustworthy (I almost always feel safe in my city, even at night, and usually get a kind smile from at least one stranger when passing). I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
For some people, our winters are a dealbreaker, but I’ve been surprised to learn that residents in some cities and states with larger, everyday challenges still remain so optimistic. I’ve been reading Dan Buettner‘s Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way (National Geographic Society, 2010), in which Buettner travels to the world’s happiest places, as deemed by the World Values Survey, and interviews academics, government officials and citizens to find out what makes their residents so joyful. A fellow Minnesotan, Buettner travels first to Denmark, which echos his home state with their long, dark winters — the writer even meets a Dane wearing a Minnesota Gophers sweatshirt. The book is a fascinating read, and deepen my understanding of how environment has such a strong influence on happiness. It reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a man from Boston when I was traveling to Fort Myers, Florida, to visit friends. He, too, understood my love of the seasons, and it was nice to meet someone who didn’t think I was crazy for choosing to remain in my snowy home state.
Much of my adaptation to the cold can be credited to a renewed positivity, one I couldn’t help but absorb when I started working with Experience Life a little over a year ago. I see the beauty in winter now, and looking out at a fresh snowfall, with the sun casting shadows from the trees, makes me all sorts of nostalgic for holidays spent with loved ones and sledding adventures with Grandpa. This season, I went snowshoeing with friends for the first time, and discovered a new way to enjoy the snow. (Not much of an athlete, especially not a snow-bound athlete, I’ve only tried a few winter sports, including ice skating and downhill and cross-country skiing, but had yet to find an activity that I felt I could manage without getting injured. I have trouble trusting myself on athletic equipment … but that’s another blog entry!)
The activity mixed with a dose of sunshine lifted my spirits. Our snowshoeing day was part of a celebration of my friend’s 30th birthday, and, for me, it encouraged me to think about how I want to start the next decade of my life when I turn 30 in September. Somehow my annual New Year’s resolution’s list has become some sort of countdown to 30 (I’m not alone: search Blogger.com for “30 by 30″ and you’ll find other bloggers looking to make big changes before the big 3-0). Many are small goals, but overall, I want to continue this healthy path I’m on, and always remember to remain present in every moment. It served me well this winter, and helped me make the most of the season.