Notes from hibernation, by Nicole Walton

Around this time of year, when the short, slate-gray days pile up on one another like dirt-flecked snow banks, and many of us are investing heavily in Seasonal Affective Disorder, Inc., I wonder why I live here.

Why do I allow myself to touch a toe to sub-zero floors on an early morning, stagger out to the car in frigid, whipping winds and go to work while the sun is still snoring? As much of the Upper Peninsula citizenry is asking the same thing right now, I thought I’d supply a few happy reminders from the other seasons of the year, fleeting though they may be.
Spring. How happy I am when the breeze is first tinged with warmth and caresses my cheeks with promise, when the clematis blushes a tender green and wraps its viny tendrils around the front porch railing in gleeful embrace. The earth seems to stretch and sigh as it melts into what e.e. cummings describes as “mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful,” and courting birds chirp and dance from tree to budding tree.
I love to watch the delicate purple and white crocus heads resolutely pushing out from beneath the shrinking remnants of snow to signal the end of hibernation, and to hear Lake Superior slapping away her protective sheets of ice and wave them towards shore, like a queen removing her counterpane. Spring in the Upper Peninsula can be a challenging event as the elements compete for domination; it fires the sluggish blood in my veins and blows the wintry haze from my eyes.
Then the sky settles and summer strolls in, and I am iguana woman, sunning myself on the Black Rocks at Presque Isle until I’m drugged with heat. There is nothing like anchoring my toes in baked sand and inhaling the wind, fresh and solid as steel, as swallows swoop and dive for meals on the wing. The sun is high and mighty and the days have expanded like accordion pleats, allowing me to pack in as much activity, or as much languid nothing, as I like. In the dappled woods, sunlight drips from leaf to leaf, then drops gently to the forest floor, where chipmunks scurry and chatter and high-tail it through the brush. It is an honor to reside in this area of mounts and meadows, streams and dunes in summer, when Mother Earth dresses in full-flowered regalia.
As autumn eases its way across the horizon, my spirit rides roiling currents of air like the eagle surveying a golden-ripe land, exhilarating in the power and the capacity of the earth to draw a colorful new veil across herself. Proud trees, like wet dogs drying their fur with shakes and shivers, fling their leaves to the ground in scarlet, orange and bright yellow pools, and night calmly cools the heat of day, prompting the donning of comfortable and well-worn sweaters.
Fall is my favorite time of year in the U.P. Its volatile moods move from vibrant sidewalk-skipping mornings to black and angry rain-lashed afternoons to multi-hued sunsets cushioned by billowing, ray-tipped clouds. I feel most alive in autumn, and would want to be nowhere else to enjoy it.
Please don’t get me wrong. I like winter, and I know there are many advantages to living here when the snow pounces, but I think I’ll wait until July and August blaze around me to tell you about that. Right now, I have to chip three inches of ice off my car and slide to work.
—Nicole Walton

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