March 8, 2021

Stevens County Times

Your spot for community news in Stevens County, Minnesota

Heges column: Winter

Winter definitely has a bad reputation. It is cold. It is dark. The weather is often dismal. The roads are impassable. The days are short. The sun doesn’t shine much. People get depressed. They get discouraged. The days seem endlessly long. There isn’t much to look forward to. Often the events that we might enjoy get cancelled due to the weather. So we stay home. It is too cold to go outside. Or too icy. So we stay inside. Grumbling.

I come from a country far north. That means winters are not only cold, but very dark. In my hometown of Oslo, the sun doesn’t get up until 9:30 and sets already a little after three in the afternoon. But Oslo is relatively far south, so further north there are places that don’t have sun at all in the winter.

So what did we do in the winter? We went outside whenever we had the chance. Since there always seemed to be plenty of snow, and we lived close to the big woods that surround Oslo, Nordmarka, we went skiing. The trails were groomed and many of them were even lit up, so we could go skiing after work or school. Many of my friends did downhill skiing. There were many hills close to where we lived and they all had lights. My parents thought downhill skiing was too expensive, so I went to the cross country trails with those of my friends whose parents also couldn’t afford lift tickets and expensive skis.

I never heard anybody complain about winter. The roads were plowed, but not salted. This meant that the roads and sidewalks were covered with a thick layer of compact snow perfect for using a kind of sled you stand behind called spark.  We all had one with our name burnt into the wood in front. Most families had only one car, but there were plenty of busses and trams which seemed to go in all kinds of weather.

Inside we had central heat which made our house nice and evenly warm. On really cold days or when we wanted a special atmosphere, we lit the fireplace and enjoyed the heat and comfort of a roaring fire. 

Moving to Minnesota, I was used to winter and marveled at the strength of the sun here due to the more southern latitude compared to Oslo. (Which has the same latitude as Labrador) I also didn’t mind the snow, although I missed being able to use my spark, because the runners only work on compact snow. But Grant and I went skiing and taught our children to ski at a very young age. We found groomed trails in the many state parks not too far away and as the children got better we ventured to more challenging trails. When they wanted to downhill ski, we found that it was cheaper to buy them season tickets for the lift and buy the downhill skis in the spring on sale. Above all, we wanted them to embrace and enjoy winter.

As I grow older, there are many other things I enjoy about winter. A person doesn’t have so many chores in winter. There is no mowing or weeding. No weed whacking or gardening. Granted, I love to work outside, but it is work. Now I can lounge in my recliner and read to my heart’s content as the winter winds blow. We are snug and cozy here in the old farmhouse far out on the open prairie.