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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: December 2, 2020

Winter Preparations

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

I remember, when I first recognized last March that the pandemic was going to upend my normal life for a while, thinking, "Well, at least it is almost spring. Thank goodness this didn't happen in the middle of the winter. That would have been REALLY hard."

Here I am, poised to weather a winter of "safer at home."

As I watched the woods and Hank Lake the last couple of months, I saw preparations. The trees dropped their leaves, and slowly slipped into their over-winter slumber. The birds who migrate became scarcer until they were all gone, and flock after flock of waterfowl stopped at the lake to hide from hunters, rest and recuperate on their journey south. And now the lake herself has pulled up her blanket of ice, tucked it in and slumbers. I know beneath the ice, the muskrats, fish, and dragonfly nymphs are still alive; but there will be no more open water until spring.

I am prepared, too. I have been living differently since March, and have started to wonder if I will ever be able to enjoy a crowded festival again. Will it feel normal to walk into a jam-packed restaurant or bar? But my summer recluse lifestyle means this winter won't be a change, just more of the same. I have jigsaw puzzles, indoor projects and a big hoard of new books. I got out the cozy throws for the couch, stocked up on tea, and have some new recipes to try.

I will miss my outdoor visits with friends and extended family, but there is hope next summer will mark the return to some normalcy, and it is my job to resist the temptation to take risks so I remain healthy until then.

I will be aided by my fascination with the woods. Many years ago, I lived for 15 wonderful years on the Menominee River. I often thought about how wonderful it was to look out the window there because the river was different every single day. The moving water slowed, and then swelled with a flood. The surface was calm, or covered with wavelets. The ice was smooth, or blanketed with snow. An otter popped up out of an open spot in the ice, or the fish were jumping in the spring.

But the woods change every day, too. The trees are sleeping now, but by early spring there will be signs of new growth. The summer animals are gone, but they will be replaced by tracks in the snow from winter residents. The summer birdsong is missing, but it is replaced by the sounds of Blue Jays, Chickadees, and the incessant chiseling of the woodpeckers. And the antics of the flock of turkeys that have taken up residence is endlessly entertaining.

I have the clothes necessary to be outdoors in any weather. It is amazing how even a brief walk outside lifts my spirits. If I have any wish at all for this winter, it is for a lighter snow cover. If it is light, I am not restricted to walks along the gravel road, and the ice on Hank Lake allows me to walk about on what I paddleboat above in summer. But if it is a deep snow winter, so be it.

The winter solstice is Dec. 21st, less than a month away. The days will begin to lengthen again, foretelling the spring that will come. We can, and we will, get through this.

I will emerge in spring, with a greater appreciation of a game of cards with my in-laws, a fish fry at the local bar and grill on Friday night, and a much-anticipated reunion with our far-away kids.

In the meantime, I, like Hank Lake, have pulled up my blankets and tucked them in. Let's go, winter.

Note: another winter preparation I've made is moving my snow brush and ice scraper from my trunk to my car interior. I also used the "special tool" needed to readjust some control knobs inside my brain " the ones that tell me to match my car speed to the speed limit signs. When winter road conditions come, and come they will, I must instead ignore those speed limit signs and be content to travel much slower. Luckily here in Wisconsin most of the drivers I meet on slippery roads understand this principle. I lived in Oklahoma for 18 years, where 75 percent of the population didn't drive, period, if there was snow on the road, and the other 25 percent figured the speed limit was still the speed limit for their big pickup trucks no matter what!

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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