As the last days of winter draw to an end — according to the calendar, not the meteorologists — I eagerly await the sighting of the first crocus pushing its way up through the snow. That little burst of purple brings a smile to my face and hopefulness to my soul that soon the winter will come to an end.
There were and still are times that I truly enjoy the winter season. I can remember wonderful days of skiing at Crystal Mountain. The best days were the warm sunny ones when the snow turned to “corn snow” and skiing was done in shirtsleeves. Riding up a chairlift, looking out over the brilliance of the snow-covered hills, and having the warm air breezing by was a day made in heaven.
I can also remember one of my first snowmobile rides on my in-laws' slow-moving husky Arctic Cat snowmobiles. My husband and I took them out for a spin around the apple orchard and I felt like I was in the commercial for snowmobiling in Michigan. Getting outside, looking around the farm and enjoying the scenery provided a great break from the winter doldrums.
We enjoyed it so much that we got our own speed-demon snowmobile. Thanks to that fast-moving backless snowmobile, I got to enjoy the snow up close and personal as I frequently fell off the backseat while my husband raced through fields and ditches.
When our first child was born, friends gave us one of those wooden pull sleds with a backrest. How I loved to use this sled in the winters when the children were little. It was fun to bundle them all up and go for a walk through the neighborhood.
I made sure to take pictures of them ready for a sled ride, since they always looked so cute in their snowsuits. I had my leftover ski clothes and snowmobile suit to wear on these adventures; however, I’m sure I did not look near as cute as they did!
I even got some enjoyment of winter vicariously by watching the two St. Bernards we once had enjoy our Michigan winters. They each would relish getting out in the snow, and had no problem sitting outside motionless and letting themselves turn into “snowdogs” as the snow continued to cover them as they perched on their favorite lookout spot behind our house.
They would come into the house with clumps of snow dangling from their fur and stuck between their toes; and as this melted away in the house, the not-so-pleasant smell of a large amount of wet dog hair would permeate the house.
Even our two border collies, who were Southern born, love the snow. Being a bit shorter than the St. Bernards, they have a little more trouble plowing through deep drifts or after-blizzard snow depths. They collect those clumps of snow in their fur and between their toes also, so wet-fur smells and winter still go hand in hand at our house.
So when did my enjoyment of winter fade? Well, we never became lifelong snowmobilers or skiers, so what to do during the winter months has been reduced to shoveling snow, knocking down icicles and trying not to fall on the slippery surface beneath the snow. Then there’s negotiating the parking lots, especially at work, that throughout the winter months seems more like a skating rink than a parking lot.
However, I do relish the days when the snow clings to the trees and creates a winter wonderland fantasy. I’ll even go so far as to say that watching my granddaughter sled or snowboard down the hills off our driveway is great winter fun.
But as winter slowly passes with a blizzard or downed power lines, I eagerly watch for those first signs of spring. The crispness of air combined with small bursts of color as the crocus and tulips spring up is such a welcome sight. Then there are the encouraging sightings of pansies and jonquils that lead to a color explosion as the hyacinths come up to herald spring has arrived.
Oh, I must not forget the flowering fruit trees that expand colorfully on the horizon.
As all these beautiful spring blooms come forth for us to enjoy, our ever-fickle Michigan spring throws us a curve ball. The premature and unseasonably warm weather we had a few weeks ago has put the tulips in full bloom weeks before the Tulip Festival, much to Holland’s dismay. Then the temperatures dipped back down into frost-warning nights and the fruit farmers had to burn fires in their orchards to save their fruit crops.
So, for right now, I still haven’t put away my winter coats, gloves, hats and boots. I need them on hand to wear over my shorts and T-shirts! After all, this is Michigan and it is spring! Well, almost!
— By Janice Beuschel, Tribune community columnist