Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Welcome To Winter

Ah yes, winter has descended upon these northern climes and, as usual, I find myself completely unprepared for the next six months. I don't know WHY winter comes as a surprise every single year; do I think this is the year it's not going to happen? What about all this global warming stuff? I can say for sure it's not warming in my particular neck of the woods. We had a "warm" (yes, this is what the weatherman said) with highs in the middle 40s...Monday, a mini blizzard and a high temperature of about 15F. Is that the way we're going to play it? FINE! I have all the stuff, the heavy jackets (good for adding the appearance of those 20 extra pounds you've been looking for), the snowpants (just in case your thighs were looking too small), the extra traction boots (who doesn't want to walk like bigfoot?), the nice warm hats and gloves (so your hair stays perfect and picking up a quarter is easily accomplished) they're all ready to go. It's ME that's not ready for this. I find myself mentally unprepared for the howling arctic wind (stupid Alberta clippers), the multiple feet of snow piling up as far as the eye can see and the prospect of not seeing my neighbors but for brief glimpses of heavily bundled figures trudging behind shovels and snowblowers.
I have a wonderful neighbor who REALLY likes his snowblower and every time it snows, he's out there doing the public sidewalk for the ENTIRE block. I love that guy and have made it a point to give him a really big plate of baked goods and a bottle of wine every single year. There are the insane people around here who LOOOOOOOOVE winter and all that comes with it.

Winter in Minnesota is a time for madness and it manifests itself in many ways. We have the hockey freaks, the snowmobile junkies and those who spend hours, even days at a time sitting in a tiny, thrown-together-in-a-weekend shack on a frozen lake staring into a hole cut in eight inches of ice in the hopes that a really stupid fish might emerge from the slightly warmer depths to nibble on the chunk of frozen whatever they’ve baited on a hook. My husband is one of the latter. This activity can go on for hours at a time, one would think this time would be spent in meaningful conversation with your fishing buddy, but this is rarely the case. Perhaps it’s a time for quiet contemplation, of re-examining their lives and finding their spiritual center, but no. The time is generally spent drinking beer and discussing the fish they’re going to catch or reliving glorious conquests of past semi-conscious fish they’ve wrangled. Dan loves this activity and now that, after more than ten years of marriage, he’s stopped trying to get me to go with him, he seizes every possible opportunity to pursue the unequaled joys of ice fishing.
You’d think an activity that sounds so simple would be simple, this just goes to show how terribly, terribly wrong we are. How bad can it be? All you need is a fishing rod, a hook, some bait and some sort of hypothermia avoidance plan, right? Oh how silly and na├»ve. You don’t need JUST a fishing rod, it must be a specially-designed-for-ICE-fishing-rod. These rods have names like: Arctic Air, Polar Poles or The Iceman. They come in configurations that boggle the mind, panfish, game fish, and my personal favorite: stillfish…might that not mean it’s already dead? The bait is another can of worms (like that?) altogether. First of all, it’s really difficult to dig in the garden for night crawlers when it’s 30 degrees below zero outside. Second, you can’t use something so boring as simple worms for heaven’s sake! No, these stupid, partially frozen fish prefer a diet of more exotic fare that you won’t be digging out of your garden, frozen solid or not. The culinary standards of these fish include such delicacies as waxworms, mealworms, crickets and minnows; all readily available in January…for a price. Then you toss in the absolute necessities: the ice auger, the ice chaps (seriously, they‘re exactly what you‘re thinking), rod holders, ice cleats for the boots, GPS units and sonar, just to get started. You’d think men who are advanced enough to operate all this high-tech, cutting edge equipment would know when it was or wasn’t a good idea to drive their half-ton pickups onto a partially frozen lake, but no. Every ice fishing season there’s at least one story about a couple of guys whose SUV has fallen through the ice and ended up in the watery depths of Lake of The Woods. “Hmm, seemed solid enough when we were walking on it, Bob.” Back to the gear, all of the items listed above and more have found their way into my house. I had high hopes at the beginning of this process, Dan announced that this was his fishing stuff, no one was to mess with it upon pain of a long and torturous death. Everything was in its pristine original packaging and lined up precisely on hooks and shelves in the basement. This impressive display of jealousy-inducing organization lasted approximately two weeks. After the first big ice fishing trip, he staggered home after a long beer infused weekend, piled everything into the back entry and fell into bed. Three days later, having tripped innumerable times over the detritus of his trip and ending up with a fish-hook embedded in my ankle, I gathered the ripening mass of now thawed clothing, tangled line and one suspiciously leaking Styrofoam cooler and shoved it all into the garage. What, you may ask, happened the next time my beloved wanted to go ice fishing? There was an hour tirade about respecting other people’s belongings and a rant about violations visited upon the sanctity of "The Iceman." The best part about all of this is that my beloved doesn't eat fish, he hates it. I still have carefully cleaned, filleted and painstakingly wrapped packages of fish marked "January 2000"...okay, it might be time to clean out the freezer.

Winter Wonderland', my butt, 'Let It Snow', yeah sure thing there, pal. I have to wonder if the people who wrote those songs ever set foot in Minnesota in January...if they had, I bet the songs would sound quite different.

Maybe something like this....

Snowblowers drone, are you listening?
In the lane, wind is blistering
A horrible sight, we're in for the night.
Living through a WINTRY APOCALYPSE.

Or perhaps...

Oh the weather outside is frightful....well, that's pretty much it, end of song.

Perhaps not as catchy as the originals, but a whole lot more honest, don't you think?