A year ago at this time we were waist-high in snow. Those who usually revel in chillin' out are now bummin' out.
Skiing and ice-climbing buff Karl Rigelman is "very disgusted" with this winter's weather. Snowshoeing and curling enthusiast Nicholas Livingston is "totally depressed." And "total winter fan" Julie Bollig has had just about enough of people marveling at how warm it has been: "I'm not down with that."
Yet Bollig is not even the most dejected denizen of her own home. That would be her husky, Zed.
"Zed is very, very unhappy. All he wants to do is lie in bed," Bollig said. "Last night we went for a walk, and there were these tiny little patches of snow. He eats the snow and lies in it and won't come out. He's looking for his own little iceberg."
Good luck with that, Zed. Minnesota's winter of 2011-12 might well be remembered for its bizarro-world reversal of Seasonal Affective Disorder, where those who might normally be melancholy can traipse around outdoors while winter-activity devotees can only mope.
"It's more like Seasonal Disappointment Disorder," said William Doherty, a professor in the University of Minnesota's Department of Family Social Science. "A lot of people say [winter] is one of the reasons they live here. They feel deprived, and they get grumpy."
Even Wednesday's blustery snow-tease provides little solace for this winter's woebegone brigade. "What good is the mercury dipping," said Livingston, "without a plush blanket of snow on which to sled, snowshoe, cross-country-ski, ice-skate, curl stones, or simply marvel at whilst out and about for a wintry stroll?
"I love winter, and I wish it would roar like it did last year."
It also has been an unhealthy season for Livingston and Bollig, who have added a few pounds in recent months because they've missed their usual cold-climate activities. They tried in-line skating but encountered too much sand on outdoor surfaces, and both are taking more vitamin D because of reduced outdoors time.
Rigelman, 45, of Minnetonka, has been far from sedentary, spending many hours mountain biking with studded tires in the Minnesota River bottoms. "The cycling has been awesome," he said.
Livingston, 33, of Minneapolis, has done some hiking at Fort Snelling and other state parks and taken up yoga while "dreaming of playing ice bocce on the pond at the in-laws' farmstead." He said he also has been spending a lot more time at the public library and even has taken up a new pursuit.
"I was given one of the best Christmas gifts ever, three fleeces of Dorset wool. I've got to clean them, card them, spin them into woolen yarn, and then knit them into a sweater for the challenge put forth by my brother-in-law: 'If you can't do that by next Christmas, you have to come to Christmas as you came into this world.'"
Bollig, 40, of Brainerd, complained that "our jet stream is in a funk," and so are she and Zed. Alternate activities? "We have not done anything, absolutely nothing. Even the ice is too thin for fishing."
Will pendulum swing?
Still, for those relieved that this winter has been warmer and drier than normal -- and decidedly more so than last winter -- the past two months have not been a psychological bed of roses, Doherty said.
"As human beings we like what's predictable, to have our expectations fulfilled," he said. "It's like when your mother-in-law is pleasant all of a sudden. You wonder what's going to happen next.
"People have trouble enjoying an unusually pleasant time. It's called the 'Just World Theory.' You figure you're going to be smacked later."
That's why Minnesotans during previous milder winters "felt guilty about taking a winter vacation -- because they haven't suffered enough," Doherty said.
The extended forecast is anybody's guess on the climate front; our own Paul Douglas said, "Although I don't see any major storms through the end of January, the models are hinting at 'a few inches' between Jan. 18 and 23. It won't be nearly enough to appease snow lovers, but it's a start."
But there could be some rumblings in the social arena, especially in a state where people dearly love to talk about the weather.
"When you get people together who like the warm and those who want it cold, it does create very interesting conversations than simply if it's below zero," Doherty said. "When it's a normal winter, conversations are pro forma cliché. But these are interesting conversations because we have all been thrown off."
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