This winter I’ve not had much good to say about the weather in Wisconsin. In fact, those of you who know me know I don’t care for winter, so as the saying goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. I was relatively quiet about my dislike until recently. I grew up in the South, land of balmy breezes and gentle rain, so after a winter of 49 days of below zero temperatures and as of yesterday, the second coldest winter in Wisconsin on the record books, I need to remind myself why this state is a good place to live. This winter has made me want to decamp permanently. I’ve even begun to peruse the real estate listings in Athens, Charleston, Greenville and many other southern cities dear to my heart.
Let me just put what has been happening here in Wisconsin into perspective. Back on January 6th when I woke up, the temperature was 15 below zero. When Bruce woke up half an hour later, it was 18 below. He started a fire in the fireplace to help our heater along. Academically, the cold was fascinating. The house made creaky, groaning noises that spooked our dog Stella, and the snow hit the house like pellets blown from many pellet guns at once. I didn’t have school that day or the day after, but not because of snow or ice on the roads. No. School was cancelled because the temperatures were so low that if anyone spent more than about ten minutes outside, they could get frostbite on exposed skin. The cold was dangerous! Veterans of cold weather know the only defense against cold the sort I’m talking about is to stay indoors or to wear down and lots of it with a gaiter and a hat covered by the hood on your coat, mittens, snow boots and insulated snow pants. Here it is February 28th and the cold is as relentless as it was back in November when it began. This morning when I got up, the temperature was 17 below zero.
Even my husband, who loves winter, has had enough, this from the man who actually enjoys clearing the snow from the driveway. And I thought I was the only one going crazy! Cabin fever has set in officially at our house, and it has me thinking about why I still live here, especially when I once told my husband I would never live north of the Mason-Dixon line. Coming up with some of the reasons below took me a while, but you’ll notice that not one of them involves the season we are currently experiencing.
1. Summer–Summer in Wisconsin is a glorious three months of nearly perfect weather, long warm days and cool nights, simply heavenly. And flowers literally grow overnight they are so happy to see the sun. The trills and calls of songbirds fill the silence that blanketed the landscape like snow during winter.
2. Few bugs–Can any Southerner say this too many times? Wouldn’t everybody want to live where there are few bugs?
3. Clean, clear rivers and lakes— A river flows behind my house, and honestly, it is one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever seen. In fall the banks are lined with hardwoods in brilliant colors, in spring deer, foxes, bald eagles and the occasional bear and coyote join the new leaves on the trees and the greening grass to celebrate the warmer weather. In summer people and animals alike call the river home. Cedar waxwings and swallows drink from its waters and swoop and turn in the air above to catch flies and other bugs. The sounds of the river fill the evening air and float up to our open windows to lull me to sleep. Right now, deep in winter, it is frozen, but I promise it’s pretty in every other season!
4. Gardening–The older I get, the more I want to tend my garden only about four or five months of the year. If I had to tend it longer, I’d have to pay someone to help me keep up both the yard and the garden. Once the weather cools toward the end of August, school starts. Then my days are governed not by the natural world but the sound of a bell. I have an excuse to stop gardening and don’t feel guilty about allowing the weeds to spread.
5. My husband–I realized a while back that my husband probably couldn’t survive living in the south as easily as I could adapt to living up north, so I stay here with him. Of course, not long ago I told him one day I was moving back where the winter is not something that threatens my very survival. I told him he could come with me if he wanted to, but that I was moving back to Georgia or somewhere else in the South. I am serious about that.
Five reasons is all I can come up with at the moment. I’m sure there are more, but my brain is too addled with cold to think straight right now. It is snowing yet again. Maybe when I thaw out some time in June, I’ll amend my list. In the meantime, if you know some good reasons to live in Wisconsin or anywhere else up here in this vast tundra of the Midwest, I’d love to hear from you. When I look at my thermometer and see -12F and the wind chill below zero, I need a few more reasons not to pack my bags right now. Help!