Lessons from a North Dakota Winter...

lessons for clara

Dear Clara,

Remember your trip to North Dakota this summer? With long summer days, green grass and your discovery of dandelions? The wintertime paints a different picture---in the place of the green and gold fields is a blanket of thick, quiet white.  There is something about the air when you step outside---when the temperature is so low, I like to think that the air can’t be anything but completely pure and clean.  I love that kind of winter in its own right, but like everything else, it is only when you spend some time away that you really appreciate the peculiarities of a place like this.  Over many winters growing up in North Dakota, this is what I've learned:

  • Don’t leave the house without a hat, scarf and gloves: You might think you are just heading out to the car but you never know.  The car will break down, there might be a storm, you might get locked out . . . Always, always, always have winter layers with you.  Remember, it is always much more important to be warm in conditions of that kind, than fashionable.
  • Brake slowly, allow time and give yourself space: Nothing good ever comes of being in a rush in the winter time.  Things will always somehow not go the way that you planned.  Don’t rush when you’re driving so that you don’t put yourself or others in dangerous situations.  If you start slipping, brake slowly---no knee jerk reactions.
  • Don’t spin your wheels, you’ll only end up deeper:  If you get stuck in the snow while driving, don’t keep trying to accelerate your way out of the problem.  Stop, figure things out, move wheels around, take a deep breath, get traction from other materials . . . Catch yourself while you can still do something about it.
  • Take care of your hands: Your hands are one of the first things to betray your age.  You won’t appreciate this when you’re younger, when you think that young skin will last forever.  But a harsh, dry winter won’t be kind to that skin.  Use lotion regularly, wear gloves, keep your nails short so that they do not break.  You hands will always make an impression on others.
  • Never take the last flight out:  The chances are high that you won’t be going anywhere.
  • Accept that sometimes the weather will be stronger than you: When the snowstorm comes, or the wind chill sets in, or the gusts of wind blow snow up your door, realize that there are some elements of nature you just won’t beat.  And that’s okay.  Know your own limitations.  Be prepared to change plans, to enjoy the quiet, and admire the elements from the inside looking out.  Sometimes those changes that we can’t control end up being their own gift.

All my love,