Thursday, January 8, 2015

It's Super Duper Cold!!!

It's cold outside. I mean really, really cold. I mean like SUPER DUPER cold.  TV says the temp is -8. We are expected to have -25 to -35 degree wind chills. School is closed. We have 4 inches of snow on the ground.  What fun is a no-school day when you can't go outside and play?  I think I might send my kids outside for 1 minute without coat or shoes so they can appreciate a warm house. I know, I know, that would be borderline cruelty.  I would go out with them.  Some lessons need to be taught.  I did smile last night when my 7 year old son prayed for the homeless.  Something is getting through. 

Don't let all this complaining fool you, I do like winter.  I used to not be a fan. I would only like it on snowy 30 degree days that were perfect for sledding and snowmen. As of the last 3 years, I have come to appreciate it this season.  One reason: maple syrup.  I'll explain later.  I should say I live in Indiana.  I do like the Midwest seasons.  As a kid, I wanted to live along the ocean. If I were to do that now (which I have no desire to) I would have to be in the Northeast.  I love the change of seasons.  I couldn't imagine being all one all the time.  I will admit to spring being my favorite, but if it were spring all the time I would grow bored. Kinda like in CS Lewis' Narnia books, "it's always winter but never Christmas." 

Last winter, I believe the average temp WAS -8 or at least it seemed like it. It was brutal. Of course, it would be the winter I decided to train for my first marathon.  Luckily, I had other crazy runner friends training for marathons too so we all bundled up in our balaclavas and would go out for 12-15-18-20 mile runs.  In our small hometown, we are SO SO SO fortunate to have a beautiful running trail. It's a 10K out and back (6.2 miles).  When finished, it will be a 10K loop.  Unfortunately, there is no snow removal so it was impassable for 2 months. So, we had to find other routes. I live in the country and have a beautiful 4.2 mile run.  On one run, my running partner drove to my house and I had 12, she had 10 to run.  We decided to go out and back as many times as we needed (thank you Garmin for your invention). We had 30-40 mile winds with a gazillion inches of snow already.  I live on a dead end gravel road. Each time we came back, the snow was drifting more and more.  The last loop I said "you really need to go home now, my road is going to drift shut."  I think the entire run we kept saying how crazy we were.  That was just one example.  It was like that all winter. My husband, a totally awesome runner, and two other running buddies ran in a 'Fat Ass' trail race. 7.45 mile loop. We had 14 miles that we needed to do. Decided to run 7 on the road and the rest  on the trail.  Took  a little over an hour to do the first 7 and THREE to do the rest.  It was a foot of snow. We did not run, it was a slow hike. I call that race the "dumb ass" race.  At least they had beer and chicken at the finish.  Last winter, I embraced the brutality. I found I love the cold air on my lungs, the stillness of the land, the only noise is the sound of my breath, when I am finished, total exhilaration.  This year I have a new running buddy, Bosco the dog. Sadly, my other running partner, Francis died last December after 9 years. So, Bosco the big puppy is  a joy to watch pounce in the snow.  This morning I am looking outside and know it would be dangerous to run in the snow and am feeling a little depressed. It is a 'dreadmill' day but still I know when I am done, I will feel better.

Maple syrup.  Our family has the tradition of making maple syrup. My grandpa started in the 50's helping a friend and then built his own sugar shack.  I have many fond child hood memories of riding the tractor, gathering in, eating all day long while the syrup was boiling down.   My grandpa passed away and we stopped making it for about 10 years. The old shack was falling in and the evaporator was in need of repair.  My brother decided to rebuild just down the road and we started it up again  about 3 years ago.  We begin around Valentine's day, just the time you are in deep seasonal depression.  Nothing pulls you out of cabin fever like the prospect of maple hot dogs and sassafras tea boiled in sugar water.  I love tromping through the woods, tapping the trees, carrying in the sap.  I try to get my runner friends to help. You want an excellent cross training exercise?  Try carrying two 5 gallon buckets full of sap while wearing heavy boots on uneven, hilly terrain. All those calories burned are quickly replenished (and then some) when we start boiling down.  Usually takes 8 hours to boil a batch and my mom cooks up plenty of food for us to eat. I try to bring healthy  snacks but it's hard to resist good home cooking.  In our family, we really have 5 seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Maple Season.  I joke  saying the Summers' family blood is really maple syrup. This cold day is a reminder that the veins of the trees are getting a good deep freeze.  Good thing.  I will be happy just snuggling with my kids today and let nature do what she needs to do.  Which reminds me, I need to order jugs.

Snow reminds me of when our Priest sprinkles holy water on us and sings from Psalm 51:9 " Purify me with hyssop O Lord, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Also Isaiah 1:18 comes to mind "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow."   Winter's purpose is to wipe away all the old so that the earth can begin again.  What better analogy than snow to demonstrate God's great mercy for us?  I 'let it snow' each time I go to confession.  I then have the peace like the calm of winter when I exit the confessional know that Jesus has forgiven my sins.

On this Super Duper Cold day, what ways can you embrace winter?