For this Puerto Rican, living in Minnesota can be a trying experience.
Oh, summers are just fine, especially when deliciously wet, Caribbean-like air slaps me in the face. (Once, when I was visiting friends in San Juan, the weather was hotter and more humid in St. Paul, which sounds crazy but is not uncommon.)
Minnesota winters, though? I have been in the Twin Cities for three decades now, and I still have my “dear God, what have I done?” moments in January or February when the mercury takes a polar plunge.
But, over the years, I’ve learned to make my peace with the fearsome King Boreas.
At one point I was heavily into cross-country skiing, an invigorating pastime that soothed my soul as I glided along groomed paths in gorgeous wooded locations such as central Minnesota’s St. John’s University, my alma mater, and Crosby Farm Park in St. Paul.
More recently, I took up snowboarding. That was tough going at first because strapping your feet to a slab of wood is an unnatural act. (Pro tip: Don’t try to teach yourself how to snowboard if you value your sanity and safety; take lessons.) But once I got the hang of it, I felt like a superhero.
It has been a while since I engaged in either snowsport, but I have lately embraced another winter activity: snowblowing.
Impending snowstorms used to fill me with dread because shoveling was so hard on my arms, but getting a snowblower changed everything. Now I yearn for blizzards. Bring ’em.
After my neighborhood gets socked with a measurable snowfall, I’ll excitedly don heavy overalls and head out to clear my property and surrounding city sidewalks using an electric Snow Joe with spare battery packs jammed in my pockets for extended range. (The model I am using also can plug into one of my house’s outdoor electrical outlets by way of an extra-long extension cord.)
This has been fabulous for a variety of reasons.
Roaming the neighborhood while pushing my snowblower is great exercise, which can tend to fall by the wayside in the winter when my beloved bicycling isn’t a practical option.
As a geek, I get to play with a gadget.
I soothe my OCD by tidying up with oh-so-messy Mother Nature has wrought, which relaxes me like you wouldn’t believe.
And I inevitably run into one or more of my nice neighbors, which tends to be a less-frequent occurrence during hibernation season.
I am hardly the only one in the ‘hood to brandish a mechanized snow-removal apparatus. As I’m removing the snow in front of my neighbor Pete’s house, he’s liable to be doing the same at the alleyway entrance to my garage.
Other neighbors — Brock, Mike, Powell and David, to name a few — have snowblowers and will often tackle sidewalks, driveways and other snow-packed spaces.
You’d almost think this a testosterone-fueled competition, but we are not that organized. There’s little coordination but, as if by magic, sidewalk snow tends to get eradicated in a roughly four-block radius soon after every snow event. No charge.
Our neighborhood is the greatest … and so is winter, as it turns out.