Monday, December 1, 2008

Let it snow . . . dammit

My neighborhood this morning, when winter brought in its first dose of sticky, icy, slick snow to bedevil me.

The first snow of the season blanketed northern Illinois last night, sending me into a funk of grouchiness and guilt, even though only about an inch and a half of the white stuff lies on the ground this morning.

Grouchiness because slowly, over the years, I have grown to dislike snow. In the beginning I reveled in it, skiing as a youngster and making snow angels and snowmen with the boys as a young father. Our snowball fights were joyous. Winter was a pleasant interlude between autumn and spring.

But as one grows older, things change.

Snow is the mortal enemy of the geezer. Slippery steps and sheets of ice underneath a thin blanket of white are unseen perils for older folks whose sense of balance and strength of bone have deteriorated. We no longer can dig our cars out of snowdrifts. We have to hire people to keep our sidewalks clear. Is it any wonder that so many of us migrate south?

But I'm feeling guilt over my funk because Upper Michigan, where I set my mystery novels, depends on snow the way Arizona depends on the sun. In fact, to the Yooper, snow is white gold. Skiers and snowmobilers bring in badly needed tourist dollars, and for the average Yooper this winter, the gloomiest for the global economy in two generations, a three-foot-thick eiderdown of snow may make the difference between utter deprivation and just hanging on.

This has made me realize that I haven't yet used winter as a setting in my Porcupine County mystery novels, but that'll be necessary in Hang Fire, the novel in progress. To do that I'll have to take a research trip north this winter and spend a few days watching Yoopers in the snow -- moving it, playing with it -- in short, dealing with it the way I no longer can. Or want to.

Somehow the old frying-pan-and-fire metaphor seems both inappropriate and inadequate.


  1. Henry - When I lived in southern Wisconsin I also disliked the snow. Slushy, icy, with no place to put it and very quickly filthy - snow was a hindrance.

    Here in da' UP snow is a blessing and we don't try to fight it but accept it. If you blow off your driveway and walks before it compacts down, it is not a big chore to move it. The Road Commission doesn't attempt to clear plow the secondary roads so there is a compacted "mat" that provides excellent traction for your vehicle. Enough falls every day to keep it fresh and clean.

    Give me the pure air of the whitewashed UP anytime over the fouled slop of the cities.

  2. If you say so, Steve . . . but I guess I had better see for myself.