Friday, January 13, 2012

Winter Wonder

Winter --- sports. Huh. That anyone is talking to me about sports amuses me. So lets broaden this out and call this a post about winter activities. Snow is no stranger to me. I was born in Alaska in December. Some of my earliest memories are of building snowmen with my father. I seem to recall a few snowball fights and snow down my back. Dad broke his leg in a couple of places skiing in Alaska. The doctor told him he was lucky to be able to walk again. That was the end of skiing in our household. I've never even tried it.

Winters in Las Vegas centered around rock hound trips into the hills. Snow wasn't an issue there. Yes, the high desert gets freaking cold, but it rarely snows. We just went on riding bikes, breaking open rocks to see what might be inside, and playing hide and seek with the other kids in the neighborhood.

Hands down, the winter sport of choice in Arkansas was going out with my grandfather on the tractor and pushing hay bales off the trailer for the cattle. Good times and great skill on grandpa's part - turning a necessary daily chore into great fun for the kids. All he had to do was drive the tractor and yell, "Now!" every once in awhile. We thought it was cool, because the cows would see us coming and start mobbing up. It was a game of chicken between the kids and the cows. Would they grab a mouthful of hay from the slow-moving trailer before we could pitch it to the ground? Or would we get to send the bail tumbling for the cows to have to dodge? It was pretty clear the cows thought of it as a game, too - until the bail hit the ground. Then it was all business.

The real winter games came in Iceland. Sledding was huge, yes. But the big thing was a game a bit like curling. You stood on one curb and tossed your bookbag, sending it sliding across the icy road. The bag would hit the opposite curb, rebound, and if you'd gauged the strength of your throw just right, the bag would slide all the way back across to you. If you didn't, you had to toddle out into the icy road to fetch your bag. We perfected the art of snow forts and several front wars out there in the snow and dark. The problem with Iceland is that winter can be deadly. Several days a year, we wouldn't be allowed out of the house or out of school at all because of the severe, dangerous weather. At those times, winter activities meant dressing up and going into Reykjavik. There was an enormous greenhouse heated by the geothermal springs. They had green, growing things, a restaurant inside, birds and other animals throughout - it was a warm, colorful and alive place to hang out when the weather was terrible. And the Northern Lights. It was a great game, watching the cloud cover for a break to see if you could spot the moving lights in the sky. Granted. The aurora can be active year round - and frequently is - but the extended hours of darkness during winter at the Arctic Circle gave us more opportunity to see it.

At this point in my life, snow is something to be dealth with rather than enjoyed and that's too bad. At least Seattle doesn't *usually* get dumped on. When we do, activities all center around making sure we have enough fuel and food to wait until the stuff melts. This winter, which has been just brilliant in terms of weather this year, we've sailed. We've hiked. Most winters, which involve lots of rain and wind, we spend indoors playing computer games. Not this year. I've sent more time chasing cats around the docks than I'm spending inside. That might all be coming to an end, though. The 's' word is being mentioned for this weekend...Wonder if there will be enough to build a snowman on the end of our finger pier?


  1. I love the greenhouse story - that is so amazing. And the northern lights. We saw them where I grew up, but they were never colored, only white. I've always wanted to see a really intense northern lights display.

  2. I saw the northern lights a few times in Wyoming - would love to see the full display!