Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, we definitely had some cold winter days with lots of icy roads and some snow, but we also had little reprieves where the temperature jumped as high as 70 degrees for a few days and it felt like spring. I remember being pregnant with Alexander in January and running out to buy maternity shorts and a short sleeve shirt and getting out for a walk. In almost 17 years of living in the Chicago area, we have never experienced temperature hikes like that. If it hits 30-35 in the winter, it feels like a dream. By February, I feel like I am going to scream. Morning walks turn into a routine of layering myself with pants, jackets, hats, and gloves only to find the sidewalks covered in ice and the snow stepped on so many times to avoid the ice that it is unstable to walk on. I often feel mentally exhausted when I get home because it feels like I have walked a 40 minute obstacle course. I wanted this season to be different though and at the beginning of this season, I posted on Facebook that I was going to “embrace winter”.
I decided it was me, not winter that is the problem. If I only changed my mindset, I could happily handle the entire winter season. For the most part, we have had a pretty mild winter until February. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I started feeling uncomfortable with the lack of snow. It felt unnatural. Then the 20 inches of snow hit. It was gorgeous! It was almost like nature had decided to gift us with the most beautiful snow ever to reward us for going most of the season with so little.
My husband and I shoveled our driveway and sidewalks three times in 24 hours. We then took Izzy on a little walk. All seemed perfect in the world. A gorgeous snow and with it a real community feel. Everyone was out and ready to talk. When you survive a Chicago winter, it feels like you’ve earned a badge of honor and we love to discuss the survival. For a few days, I lived in bliss with the snow. Then it turned black, we had a day above freezing and enough snow melted onto the sidewalks that they are now covered in ice, windchill was-26 for several days, and now I completely remember why I don’t like winter.
However, I’m not giving up that easily. I made a commitment to embrace winter and I am determined to follow through. Nature seems to be on my side too. Every once in a while I look outside my office window and I see a bright red cardinal sitting on a branch of one of our trees. I LOVE cardinals. Just when you think color and beauty is gone with winter, a cardinal appears to remind you otherwise. If I listen on my walks, I can often hear birds chirping all winter. The sun rising in the winter on early morning walks is something I have never been able to capture on camera and have finally just given up on and instead soak it into my memory.
Chicago winters are long and they are hard. Embracing them is a challenge, but when people in year long warm climates talk about waking up to 70 degree temperatures in January, I always feel a little sad for them and all they are missing. I guess after 17 years, this is what it means to be a Chicagoan. Your feelings about winter go up and down all season long, but you can’t imagine life without this season.