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Traffic and pedestrians struggled to cope with blowing and accumulating snow along Marquette Ave. S. in downtown Minneapolis.

Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

Jill Burcum: And the snow fell

  • Article by: JILL BURCUM
  • Star Tribune
  • November 21, 2011 - 10:06 PM

The annual autumn bout of magical thinking lasted longer than usual this year. But the lacey veil of snow that descended Saturday put an end to my hopes that maybe this year, somehow, we’ll get a pass from winter.

Minnesota is an odd place for a summer lover to live and with the passing years, it gets harder and harder to make my peace with the early darkness, first snowfall and initial blast of bonechilling cold. This year’s long golden autumn didn’t make it any easier.

An early October weekend with temperatures in the 80s belied the calendar’s late date. The maples gracing the yard’s northern boundary seemed reluctant to swap their green plumage for crimson, only grudgingly dropping their leaves a few weeks ago. The front flowerbed’s snapdragons stood tall and green until the bitter end, finally bowing under as Saturday’s snow piled up.

“Please make it go away” was all I thought as I surveyed my newly shrouded shrubs and contemplated the long gray slog ahead til spring.

And yet, there is a perverse pride that I take in surviving our long winters — a feeling I suspect a lot of Midwesterners share. It takes guts and resourcefulness to live up here year round. There’s something to be said about the mental toughness of those who of us who haul out the shovels and Carhartts this time of year instead of waving goodbye and heading south.

That’s why Minnesota’s mighty snowplows make up one of my favorite winter tableaus. After a big snowfall, the Minnesota Department of Transportation sometimes will send three plows or more down a wide stretch of freeway. The staggered plows send up graceful arcs of snow one after another. It’s almost like snowplow ballet.

But it’s more than a pretty scene. There’s a muscular Midwestern defiance at work. Snowstorms that routinely hit the Twin Cities every winter would shut down other cities for days. Not us.

Watching the plows push back against the weather is like watching an underdog football team run the ball down field after the opposing team scored. You just want to stand up and cheer. We may be snowed under but we are unbowed.

Winter will never be more than an endurance test for many of us. But I’ve come to think of it like running a marathon. The experience itself isn’t always pleasant, but triumphing over a 26.2 mile course makes you a better person. And along the way, there are usually some lasting memories.

Same goes for winter. The trials it brings often make great stories — neighbors pushing a car out of a snowbank, for example, or successfully jumpstarting a colleague’s car when neither of you have used jumper cables before. And admit it, there’s pleasure in regaling friends and family with your tale of the commute-from-hell.

The cold is coming but the frigid temps aren’t a moratorium on good times. We just have to bundle up and go out and find them.

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Jill Burcum is a Star Tribune editorial writer.

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