Winter's nothing like she used to be.
December 12, 2004 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Winter in Minnesota aint nothin like she used to be.

Once upon a time, winter meant more than an extra 15 minutes stuck in traffic in a car with heated seats, a CD player, and a good excuse for getting to work late.

"...After great toil they reached the scene of distress and found many dead; and what was more horrible, the living feeding on the corpses of their relatives."

posted by santiagogo (30 comments total)
Wow, that's a good deal of snow. Brings to mind Garrison Keillot's Hymn to Winter. Excerpt:
In summer you get the illusion
That life must be gentle and warm,
But wisdom comes to us in winter
When we have to stay home in the storm.
When the blizzard comes out of the northwest,
You cannot do as you would do.
So winter is when nature teaches
That the world is not here to please you.

The world is not here to please you
The world is not here to please you
So winter is when nature teaches
The world is not here to please you.
posted by ontic at 11:33 AM on December 12, 2004

"I have experienced more trouble, anxiety, and danger since the 18th of October last than in the whole course of my life before and I would not undergo as much again for all the beaver that went out of Hudson Bay in 10 years,"

Those winters must be bad.
posted by runkelfinker at 11:47 AM on December 12, 2004

Reminds me both of home and the poetry of Robert Service.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:54 AM on December 12, 2004

I just recently moved to the Twin Cities, and caught this article from the City Pages and was instantly intrigued. Granted, I just moved from the Milwaukee area, but there is a vast cultural difference between the idea of winter here and there.
posted by santiagogo at 12:03 PM on December 12, 2004


*goes back to bed with extra blankets*
posted by jokeefe at 12:07 PM on December 12, 2004

It must be said:
And that's the News from Lake MetaFilter, where the women are strong, the men are good looking and all of the newbies are above average.
Good post.
posted by wendell at 12:22 PM on December 12, 2004

Called to mind Ravenous.

Nice link. Makes me not wish so hard NYC saw snow now and then.
posted by Busithoth at 12:28 PM on December 12, 2004

Strange, I'm from Alberta yet I had never heard of an Alberta Clipper until reading this!

Oh, we're doing poems... Wallace Stevens, then. The Snow Man. In the same vein as ontic's contribution, though not entirely about winter, of course, and perhaps even more despairing.

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

posted by Urban Hermit at 12:40 PM on December 12, 2004

I have a theory -- just a theory -- that has been reinforced since moving to Montana two years ago: people who live in Northern-tier cities are, on average, much nicer than those who reside in Southern-tier cities/states. I'm sure that the cold and the snow play a role in this friendliness, as does the "people per square mile" statistic.
posted by davidmsc at 12:57 PM on December 12, 2004

interesting stuff--reminds of a recent PBS thing on the Donner party.

Global warming's pretty much taking some of the harsh out of winter, tho, no?
posted by amberglow at 1:05 PM on December 12, 2004

I lived in Northern Minnesota for my first 25 years and while I never had any acquaintance with groundhogs on a culinary basis, I have my own horror stories. I lived in Duluth (the place with the most god-awful winter that I have ever encountered--man, when that wind comes whipping off Lake Superior...But I digress.) The temp was close to minus 50 with a wind-chill that brought it down to near minus 70. My head bolt heater was plugged in so my car started and I let it run for awhile before driving off. I got about a mile up the hill (picture San Francisco with four feet of snow) when I heard the whump-whump-whump of a flat tire. I changed the tire in the snow and the cold and the wind, but as it turned out, there was nothing wrong with the damned thing--it had just frozen solid and popped off the rim. That's when I decided that there had to be a better place to live.
Now I live in SW Washington. Sure it rains all winter but every time that depresses me, I flash back to Duluth and figure I'm better off in Purgatory than in Hell.
posted by leftcoastbob at 1:20 PM on December 12, 2004

I drive a car with heated seats. It really is as useful as it seems.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:28 PM on December 12, 2004

And the moment, there's no snow.
posted by gimonca at 1:42 PM on December 12, 2004

Hey I was just out and about... a few flakes and 50 mph wind gusts. Mother Nature, she's a tryin.
posted by nathan_teske at 1:46 PM on December 12, 2004

I've been here for eight winters now and they've just been annoyingly long and cold with none of this blizzard stuff the whiners olde tymers talk about.
posted by norm at 1:54 PM on December 12, 2004

The thing I remember most about Minnesota winters is that the first snow stayed and didn't leave the ground until March. My brother and I used to spend entire afternoons on our Minneapolis street with ice chippers. The ice was so thick it had rings or layers like trees and you could look at the chunks of ice and almost see how many storms we had that winter.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:04 PM on December 12, 2004

I'm just hopping on the winter poetry bandwagon here:

"Ancient Music" (really by Ezra Pound)
1Winter is icumen in,
2Lhude sing Goddamm,
3Raineth drop and staineth slop,
4And how the wind doth ramm!
5 Sing: Goddamm.
6Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
7An ague hath my ham.
8 Damm you; Sing: Goddamm.
9Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
10 So 'gainst the winter's balm.
11Sing goddamm, damm, sing goddamm,
12Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.
posted by Aknaton at 2:49 PM on December 12, 2004

::wheezy old-timer/whiner voice:: Ah, but Norm, m'boy, that's because the last eight years have on the whole been relatively dry and mild. Dunno if this is global warming, or just the normal fluctuation of seasons, or what, but this (being an El Nino year) should be a fairly mild winter as well. (Not that I'm complaining...)

To really appreciate Minnesota blizzards, you need to get out of the cities, and go to someplace like, say, Hancock, where my sweetie grew up, 50 miles from the Dakota border, treeless and flat as a table. One Christmas when I was out there, a blizzard blew up, and I (dumb city girl) wandered out into an adjacent field to Experience It. Full white-out, steady 40+ mph winds, and after a few minutes, I was damn lucky to find my way back to the house.

Needless to say, I am so very, very glad I do not live in the 19th century.
posted by Kat Allison at 3:21 PM on December 12, 2004

I agree that Minnesota winters aren't what they used to be. It is already the 12th, we have had but one good snowfall, and even that hasn't stuck to the ground here in Minneapolis. Having grown up in Minnesota I can attest to the fact that the last several years have been "uncomfortably" tame. I keep waiting for that excruciatingly bitter climate of earlier times to return, but as the years pass by, it grows farther and farther away. Perhaps I have just become accustomed to the woeful chill of a Minnesota winterwind, but I seem to remember fiercer days when the bitter old man was far less relenting...

I also agree that the only way to experience the full effect of the winter is to venture a little further north of the cities. My memories of the coldest and snowiest winters here all involve trips to Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters.
posted by Demogorgon at 4:15 PM on December 12, 2004

Minnesota Winter Storms seem to come every few years, but it's been an unusual 8-year gap since the last really bad one -- and by 2030 Minnesota's climate may resemble Wisconsin's {gasp!}. Being from the latter I'm no stranger to winter's pleasantries, but I particularly recall noting on a visit to Duluth that the city had quite a few stop signs with an extra stop sign on top, in case the first one was covered by snow.
posted by dhartung at 5:04 PM on December 12, 2004

I think you may be right, davidmsc, because with the harsh winters everyone has to trust each other more. In the winter, parking lots are filled with cars that are running, keys in the ignition and doors unlocked.

I live in Fargo, ND which is just across the river from Moorhead, Minnesota. While y'all in the cities may have no snow, we have snow and ice here. It was warmer at 4 in the morning (32 degrees or so) than it is right now (18 degrees and 1 degree with windchill). Since I don't own a car, the winters are hard for me. I bundle up so much that I am hot before I leave my apartment, and the first blast of cold air is refreshing. After that, it is just damn cold. This is a big change for me since I grew up in Sacramento, CA, where pipes burst almost every time it dips below freezing (which is not that often).
posted by Monday at 5:41 PM on December 12, 2004

The article mentions a night in Tower where it hit 60 below, and Mr. Mosedale goes out of his way to point out that no, "you were not there." I wasn't exactly in Tower that night, but I was out in the Boundry Waters (fairly close by, far northeastern MN) that night winter camping with my Boy Scout troop. For those of you who have never experienced the wonders of winter camping, imagine waking up at 2am in a sleeping bag that's buried in a hole in the snow, lined with dirty clothes for extra warmth, water skin clutched closely to your chest at all times to prevent it from freezing, and having to pee like all-get-out but just knowing that this is the most ungodly, awesomely cold night you will ever experience, and that is is decidedly unwise to venture forth in search of relief.
The things we Minnesotans do for fun...I'm just hoping it stops being so damn windy so I can go snowboarding tomorrow!
posted by baphomet at 6:50 PM on December 12, 2004

Baphomet, remember around 92 or 93, when it was around 50 degrees below, not counting the wind chill. That's when I did my polar beer too.

Just curious, as a Wisconsinite who is very far from Minnesota (though I've driven across the state twice), how do Minnesotans and Wisconsites deal with winter differently?
posted by drezdn at 10:45 PM on December 12, 2004

For some reason, this story is always bracketed as children's literature. It's really much darker than that, and worth re-reading (I get to teach it, which is fun).

I like people from Minnesota as well. But a girl from their broke my heart.
posted by bardic at 6:49 AM on December 13, 2004

I like people from Minnesota as well. But a girl from [there] broke my heart.

An aside: women from Minnesota never seem to leave here, at least not permanently. They can go off to college but they pretty much will come back and ensnare whatever hapless male they affiliate with, drawing him back with them.

(I'm not bitter.)
posted by norm at 7:53 AM on December 13, 2004

I lived in MN for a few years and recently fled to a warmer climate. I'm not sure the twin cities is any indication of what the rest of the midwest goes through, as an intiricate system of skyways and tunnels makes it it possible to go for weeks without going outside.

Last winter I took a train trip from St. Paul to Whitefish, MT. That was some damn cold weather we encountered in North Dakota. The train could only go a few miles an hour or the rails would crack, and it seemed impossible to get warm (and this was inside the heated train).

Recent midwest winters may not be as bad as they used to be, but what I saw last year was plenty bad to drive me out.
posted by Sheppagus at 10:42 AM on December 13, 2004

people who live in Northern-tier cities are, on average, much nicer than those who reside in Southern-tier cities/states. I'm sure that the cold and the snow play a role in this friendliness

Hear, hear. I have a similar theory, after moving from a lifetime in Chicago to Los Angeles. I don't believe it's an issue of people being "nicer", or "better", or anything like that -- I think it's just that being exposed to group suffering, as in a particularly bad winter, makes you appreciate small gestures of kindness from other people. People need occasional suffering to truly appreciate it when things are going well
posted by davejay at 12:21 PM on December 13, 2004

I grew up in central Maine and have cousins who live in St. Paul, so for years every winter my father and my uncle would have a minor pissing match over who had the worst winter. The 1970s were pretty serious years for cold and snow in both places, but these days it seems that the green (or brown) Christmases are the norm.
posted by briank at 12:40 PM on December 13, 2004

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