I was born and raised in Wisconsin so winter should not be a big deal; I should be used to it, know what to expect. After all, it arrives like clockwork every year, bringing with it the nostalgic promise of a new season, coloring the holidays with sparkle and hope. And like clockwork, the allure eventually wears off, the dirty gray snow and the short, dark days create a mid-winter slump and yearning for spring. I like winter, but wish it ended in January, well.. maybe right after the Birkie.
Most winters create rather mundane memories for me, but this winter has been extraordinary; relentless sub-zero temperatures, bitter wind chills that knife right through me and freeze my lungs with each breath. And did I mention snow? When the locals talk about snow cover in feet instead of inches, there is a LOT of snow.
No mundane memories this winter – I will always remember the first morning I awoke to frozen pipes; in a sleepy daze I wondered why the toilet briefly gurgled after I flushed it. Flush it again and nothing. No noise, no water filling in the tank, just silence. Wide awake now, I frantically open the bath sink tap only to hear a faint hissing of arctic air.
Great. We are limping through winter in a 3 season cabin, its 26 below zero with little chance we are going to get this shallow water line working anytime soon. Getting ready for work I wondered what my dentist would think of my choices of liquid to brush my teeth with – either orange juice or Pepsi. Both turned out to be quite gross, but at least my teeth were clean.
Never again will I take for granted running water. We have to go in to town daily to fill up our large water storage jugs, a royal pain in the first place, but I need it for all the essential stuff one needs to be a clean, non-stinky person in the office. Over a matter of days I perfected washing up in a bucket – hair and face first, then stand over the tub to lather up and rinse off. It works for the half of each week I’m in Hayward, but like the late winter slump, washing in a bucket gets old pretty fast. When I get back to McFarland on Sundays I just about scald my skin in that first long hot shower.
So I’ll finish out this winter snowshoeing, ice fishing and enjoying the outdoors every chance I get, and washing up in my bucket before I go to work. It isn’t that bad, after all I am up north here in beautiful Hayward, which makes any short-term hardship worth enduring. As I was hauling in the day’s supply of water yesterday, I thought of all the crazy stories I’ll someday be able to tell my grandchildren and a smile spread across my face. A frozen smile from this polar wind, but a well-earned one nonetheless.