Thursday, February 2, 2012

There's Always Six More Weeks of Winter Left In Wisconsin, Right?

In fact, I'm pretty sure that in Wisconsin, the groundhogs are still hibernating well into April.

(A groundhog in our yard last summer.)
This year may be an exception, though. The temperatures have been warmer, and it seems we've been in a snow-drought that's lasted through most of January and now into February. Many people actually took their outside lights down this year during the week after Christmas. I didn't think that was allowed in Wisconsin, but apparently it is.

And the darkness. Oh the darkness.

The thing about wintertime snow is that it brightens up the dark. Without snow on the ground, the way-too-short days of those living near or above the 45th parallel end way to soon. The brightness of snow serves as a buffer for the encroaching nightfall. The moon reflecting off that snow cheers up the night and makes it so much more bearable and beautiful.

Yes, Wisconsin gets way too cold. Yes, Wisconsin has more snow than most people care to deal with. But for cold there is proper clothing. For snow there are snow blowers and really nice neighbors who help each other dig out.

It's the dark that gets people.

They drive to work in it. They drive home in it. And if they don't get outside during a break, they'll spend a whole week seeing nothing but it.

My husband and I have spoken with pastors and wives who had moved up from the South, only to decide a few short years later that they just could not handle living in the Upper Midwest. Overwhelmingly they've told us and others that it was the darkness of the winter that drove them away.

I've heard stories of those who would just become non-functioning during those months -- sleeping on the couch and hardly getting anything done.

That's why when our current church was sorting through résumés before they issued our call, they initially determined to avoid pastors from the South, and to especially avoid those from Texas (hah!). It was only by God's grace and mercy that they just couldn't bear to sort my husband's file into the "no" stack.

Fortunately for us, we came to Wisconsin with eyes and ears wide open. We spoke with pastors' families who had moved to Wisconsin and survived. We spoke with those who moved here and actually love it -- they feel like they're finally home. And we've spoken with people who have lived here all their lives, gleaning from them the mistakes they've seen transplanted southerners make over the years, and listening closely to their tips on how to avoid them.

Number one on the list is that no matter how brutally cold it is, no matter how many degrees below zero the windchill factor is, you have to get outside every single day.

Ideally, you go for a 30-minute walk. That may mean you spend 30 minutes inside getting yourself ready for those 30 minutes outside. It may mean that the only part of your body that is visible are your eyes (though some days you'd be wise to wear glasses of some sort).

But it's worth it. It's necessary. It's a sanity saver.

It's why we're still living in Wisconsin, and one reason why we're still loving it.