As it rains here in Duluth, MN on this 6th of November, the American election day, I wonder again if we're going to see a frozen winter this year or if it will again be bare ground, frost and mush. As Bill McKibben of 350.org said in a recent taped interview, those of us who remember the weather and the seasons for what they lately used to be are the true conservatives, not the people who are growth-at-any-cost in their views and refuse to believe that we are on track, in all our fossil-fuel-charged collective movement, to make earth's atmosphere too hot and unstable for civilization to stand. What would a conservative want to conserve, if not civilization and Mother Earth.
I always did love winter and outdoor exertion in it, my body plentifully warmed by my own inner workings. I grew up faintly jealous of school athletes and Olympians, unafraid to push themselves and compete with others, but forgave myself that I didn't have their drive. At least, I felt, I had space and could travel it for hours by my own leg-power. A great, sweeping loss of public health, I am sure, has resulted from people growing up disbelieving that winter locomotion outdoors was any good for them.
Somehow, walking in winter is a waste of time for a whole cross-section of people, while for others it's a lift or body/mind therapy. Then, too, it has something to do with the prevalence of roads and cars and trucks-- especially those mega trucks with molded curves like muscle, probably to make up for shallow real muscle on many a sedentary driver--for driving anywhere that our legs could take us, and the noise, speed and exhaust fumes that we tolerate or even revel in, like power-farts.
In the first week of February 2012 I sat in soggy snow near the shore of an island at Camp Menogyn, at the top of Minnesota near the Canadian border, and drew and painted winter spruce twigs with my fingers bare, the sun balmy on my head and hands, moisture soaking into my snow pants, a pair of snowshoes a sort of sunken seat for me. The iron grip of classic mid-winter appeared to be tamed, so that our crossing the lake ice and snow to that island on foot with sleds was in retrospect a marvel--we should have been outspokenly watchful of falling through. It was just past high noon, the water-logged pants soon to hurry me back to the fire in the lodge, the painting of redpolls whirling from a traditional snowdrift bristling with tips of frozen-crisp spruce an outdoor accomplishment that shouldn't have been possible. Complacent at what I was making--pleased, too--I was and remain chronically troubled by what is becoming of the boreal January and February. My watercolor of redpolls, winter finches of the northland, is now done, with reference to 1970s-era photography of what a snowbank in the North Woods used to look like. The present winter just didn't have any high, frozen-stiff snowbanks to offer; the snow on location was real but sinking in the broad light of day. Blank Note Card: a Redpoll Explosion on a Winter's Morn at https://www.etsy.com/listing/110077614/art-card-redpolls-winter-scene-for