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 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. It was tough going at first because strapping my feet to a slab of wood is an unnatural act. (Pro tip: Don’t try to teach yourself 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 sport, but I have lately embraced another winter activity.
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 hefty amount of the fluffy stuff, I’ll excitedly head out to clear sidewalks using an electric Snow Joe with a couple of spare battery packs jammed in my overall pockets for extended range.
This has been fabulous for a variety of reasons.
I get some 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’m also able to soothe my OCD by tidying up with oh-so-messy Mother Nature has wrought.
I inevitably run into one or more of my beloved neighbors, whom I otherwise don’t see during hibernation season.
And I feel a rush of pride at doing a good deed for the ‘hood, scoring karma points.
I’m hardly the only one to do so. As I’m clearing 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 — also have snowblowers and will often tackle the sidewalks, driveways and other snow-packed spaces near their homes.
You’d almost think this a testosterone-fueled snow-clearing competition, but we are not that organized. There is not a lot of coordination but, as if by magic, sidewalk snow tends to get eradicated in a roughly four-block radius soon after every snow event.
Our neighborhood is the greatest.
See the photo at the top of this post? My neighbor Adam snapped it today as I approached him with the Snow Joe while he was shoveling. If you scrutinize the picture, you’ll see me partly grimacing (from the exertion), and partly grinning (from the sheer enjoyment of it all).
Yeah, winter ain’t so bad. I’ve got this.