by Beth Diane Bradley
The pains are getting closer. It’s time to grab your bag and head to the hospital. Hopefully the labor won’t last too long. After your baby arrives, you will forget the pain of childbirth — and might even choose to go through it again someday.
I’ve decided that must be the mindset we use in North Dakota to survive the frigid months between fall and spring. Each year we struggle through extreme temperatures, bloated wind chill factors and swollen heating bills.
Winter brings on mood swings sometime after the holidays, and as the piles of snow grow taller– the labor pains begin. But when the cord is cut, we become absolutely giddy about spring — leaving all thoughts of winter behind — as if it never happened.
Do we move? Of course not.
We try to lose the weight we gained during the months stuck indoors, forget the pain — and nine months later we go through it again. Maybe Mother Nature needs to use birth control.
Here in the north country, we take pride in our ability to tolerate the pain of winter — because we feel it builds character. I would hate to be sitting on a beach somewhere in January, when I know I could be a much better person if I were stuck in a snow bank instead.
Another popular retort I’ve heard over the years is that cold weather “keeps out the riff-raff.” According to Merriam-Webster, riff-raff describes someone who is not respectable, and has very low social status. I guess there’s a rapper from Texas who calls himself Riff Raff. I have no idea if he is respectable, or if he’d even want to come to North Dakota in the winter.
I always say shoveling my driveway is a “free gym membership.” But there is plenty of research indicating that shoveling snow can cause cardiac arrest and back problems. And I was hoping I’d have Michelle Obama’s arms by spring.
Frigid weather causes us to assume a hunched back posture and cover our heads up like mummies, making us barely recognizable to our friends and neighbors. But it still brings out the best in people as we try and power through it together.
It’s not unusual for a neighbor to come by with his snow blower and lighten your load. And when your car needs a jump or you go in the ditch, someone will usually show up to lend a hand, or at least hold your hand until real help arrives.
So how do we survive winter since we stubbornly refuse to leave? Some people have figured out how to have fun in the snow on those not so blustery days with ice skates, skis, snow shoes, and snow mobiles.
Personally, I lack the balance and coordination for skating or doing anything that involves staying vertical while on a hill — and every time I’ve been on a snow mobile, it’s tipped over on me. I much prefer walking my dogs and watching them scamper through the snow each year as if they’ve never seen it before.
Those who have endured too many harsh winters start doing crazy things in the name of fun — like driving their half-ton pickups onto a frozen lake to set up a shack or tent and drill holes in the ice, staring aimlessly for hours until a fish finally shows up.
During the long wait, some will drink alcohol, play cards and eat junk food. On a good day, they catch fish, and on a bad day they just lose things down the hole like fishing poles and small children. Don’t worry, the kids usually climb back out, at least mine did.
For people who don’t enjoy convening with nature in her most brutal form, sitting by the fire reading or playing scrabble is a nice alternative. A blustery day can be a good excuse to stay home and enjoy being a hermit – although too much domestic bliss can quickly turn into a rabid case of cabin fever. Then it’s time to hide the knives from those who say they love you the most.
But no matter how much some people might enjoy winter activities, I’ve never heard anyone say they wished winter would last a bit longer. And that is also just like being pregnant.
Some years, when it’s time for Mother Nature to give birth to spring, her water breaks. Then the labor lasts even longer while sandbags are filled and dikes are built. These activities help us meet any neighbors we missed while we were stuck in the ditch. So by the time spring is born, we’ll all be one happy family.