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Here comes Santa Claus! Took a fire truck down from the North Pole.

Hi Santa!  We’re so excited to see you around here!  Did you have a good ride down from the North Pole?  Did you ride in that fire truck all the way?  Did you put out any fires along the way?  

Snowy winter wonderland

Santa scurried inside the Arvon Town Hall to deliver gifts to eager children.  I stood around in sixteen layers of clothing (NOT Grandma’s 1970’s snowmobile suit.  We do NOT bring that out in public) waiting for the hayride.  We had to wait until Santa passed out all his goodies.  Yep.  The Fire Department puts on a bona fide hayride every year for all the kids, parents and outdoor bloggers who want to hop aboard.  It’s a wagon pulled by your standard four-wheel drive pickup truck.  Complete with hay bales for all of us hayride-participants to sit atop.  

The boyz on the hayride

Oh the kids were so cute!  Really adorable, every single one of them.  Some of them had blue lips from sucking on blue and white candy canes.  Not from the cold, mind you!  Maybe twenty of us piled on the wagon for the short ride down to the township park and back.  (I had been forewarned to wear lots of heavy clothing.  It looked like not everyone received the memo.  Without hats and gloves, it looked like some riders might have been a tad bit uncomfortable…) 

Sun illuminates evergreens

However, the weather was lovely today.  Truly lovely.  I can’t begin to share how 25 degrees seems like a heat wave after a freezing cold previous day where the temperature barely rose to 10 degrees and the wind whipped around trees with a potent fury.  Today felt balmy.  At least for those of us with snow pants, hooded sweatshirt, heavy coat, two pair of mittens, warm hat and toasty Sorel boots. 

Two cute little girls on the hayride

How many of you are thinking the beautiful snow-covered trees were spotted during our hayride?  Ha ha, fooled you big time!  The tree-photos were taken yesterday down a side road near our house.  I was leaning out the window of the car, snapping away.  The mailman followed in his car.  You could tell he couldn’t figure out what I was doing on this road.  I flagged him to drive past.  He kind of frowned as he went around.  It was a puzzlement.  What was I doing on this road?  (This is one of the joys of rural living!  Everyone knows who you are and wonders when you’re not doing something predictable.) 

Another gate in our white snow world

After the hayride, it was time to finish shoveling the deck.  I love shoveling very slowly.  When Barry shovels, it’s all done in one session.  When I shovel, it may be two or three days.  That’s because one must ENJOY one’s shoveling.  One must only shovel until it’s time to quit.  Which might be in five minutes or fifteen minutes.  Never a half hour. 

Snow-covered "Christmas" trees

Hope everyone  a) gets to see Santa coming down from the North Pole on a fire truck and b)  gets to see a little snow for Christmas.  That is, if one lives in a snow-prone area of the world.  Also hoping c) that you all get to go on a hayride this year.  Really!  And remember, if you can’t find a hayride pulled by a good old-fashioned horse, a pickup truck will do.

Crescent moon before dawn

Crescent moon before dawn

No, no.  Everyone keep his or her hat on.  It’s far too cold to toss away our chooks (the Yooper word for wintertime “hats”).  Didn’t your mother teach you?  Be sure to keep your head covered in cold weather

We lose 75 percent of our body heat through our uncovered noggins, right?  Wrong!  Check out this wilderness medicine website for the scoop:  http://wildernessmedicinenewsletter.wordpress.com/2007/02/14/heat-loss-through-the-head-and-hypothermia/   (If anyone believes differently than this researcher, let us know!)

But let’s leave our hats on anyway, after we’ve bowed deeply to Frida Waara.  Anyone who hasn’t read, please scroll down to yesterday’s blog entitled, “Who’s a wimp?”  Skip all the parts pertaining to me and my alleged wimpdom, and instead read about polar adventurer and inspirational speaker, Frida Waara.

I won’t repeat too much, except to say she’s a person I greatly admire(although have only met once, last January, when she visited our small community and spoke about her adventures to the North Pole in April, 2001.)  She and eleven other women were the first all-female unsupported team to reach the North Pole from Russian ice to the top of the world.

How cool is that?  (let’s not go there….we know how COLD that was….)

Well, this morning I woke up and there’s a comment from dear Frida Waara herself on this outdoors blog.  Go read!  How in the world did she discover this?  Who told?  Someone had to email her.  Jennifer? Kim? 

I was flying so high with energy imagining hiking to the North Pole that I flew out the door before dawn this morning at 5 below zero, raring to go.  If Frida could make the North Pole….I could make the end of the road and back.  No more whimpering and complaining!  This was the needed motivation.  The past week’s lethargy and wuss-behavior lifted.  I sailed down the road in Grandma’s old snowmobile suit, everything covered up except eyes and nose, humming cheerfully.

You know the sound the birds make in the early pre-dawn light?  There’s a certain bird, a certain call, that ignites your soul.  The little bird announces the advent of another day.  His two or three syllable hymn hauntingly awakens us here in the northwoods.   Anyone know the name of the little fellow?  I thought, at first, it might be a chickadee.  But now am not so certain.

The sun pushed its way above the horizon with surprising zeal, staining the skies pink and purple.  The deep blues lightened.  The crescent moon, already waning after last week’s full moon splendor, twinkled down from the frozen sky. 

I love how each of us can inspire and re-inspire one another.  I love how we can cheer each other on in our adventures, how we can provide words of encouragement when the going gets tough.  We’re a team here in this world.  We need each other in so many ways. 

Let’s all remember to offer words of encouragement to others this week, even small baby words of love and caring.  Let’s keep an eye out for our struggling brother or sister on this earth. 

Although this probably sounds undeniably corny:  it’s not cold where it counts….in the warmth of our hearts.  🙂

Shadows in the snow

Shadows in the snow

Day 26 of this commitment to go outside every day for a year.  It was cold.  Too cold.  It felt more like an endurance test, rather than an enjoyable stroll in the woods.  Every bit of exposed skin (only the nose and eyes, really) burned in the frigid wind chill.

The thermometer said four below, but the wind chill hovered at -25 below.  More than sixty of our Upper Peninsula schools announced cancellations or delays.  The woodstove demanded logs hourly, hungry to abate the chill. 

If you look down the road, a white misty hue colors the horizon.  It looks like a fine shimmer of white against the lake’s surface.  The world appears still; there’s no wildlife around.  One might think the chickadees and finches would be greedily munching sunflower seeds at the feeder; instead, there’s an eerie feeling of ice-cold silence.  No deer paw beneath the oak tree.  Even chipmunks and squirrels remain absent, perhaps hidden in burrows beneath the snow cover.

The bare branches of the bushes and trees seem etched against the blue-tinted snow.  The sun, at mid-day, rests so low in the sky, weakly shining its January light.  Remembering the old adage “never take a picture into the sun” I aimed the camera and snapped.  They couldn’t have been talking about this anemic sun, could they?

Weak January sun

Weak January sun

Last night a friend asked me to go cross-country skiing.  I mumbled something like, “maybe when it gets a little warmer….” and she shook her head and responded with something that sounded suspiciously like “wimp” or “wuss.”  Thank goodness she didn’t know about this Outdoor Commitment!  It probably would have been impossible to say “no”.

Some people seem so much better suited to spend time outside without even feeling it as a “commitment”.  Especially the avid skiers and snowshoers and ice fishermen around here.  They’re out & about daily, rarely contemplating wind chill.

I am a wimp and a wuss. That’s why this commitment is necessary.  Hibernation sounds more appealing at this time of year, let me tell you.  I am also not one of those souls so in love with nature waxing poetically about the snowfall, the chickadees, the diameters of maple trees, the positions of the stars.  I like the outdoors; don’t get me wrong, I’m just not head-over-heels-365-days-a-year- in love with it.  (That’s probably why it has so much to teach me this year….)

Last January our small school hosted an inspirational speaker named Frida Waara, from nearby Marquette, who skied with a team of eleven other women to the North Pole.  That woman is no wimp!  No one could call her a wuss.  She is a true inspiration….please check out her website at www.fridawaara.com

In Frida’s words: 

“Everyone will cross an Arctic Ocean in their lives,” says Frida. “It may not look like the ice cap at the top of the world, but it will feel every bit as dangerous and alien.”

How will you cross that unfamiliar ground? Frida believes whether it’s to rescue your home, your health, your family or your finances, you must learn to rely on creative problem solving and teamwork–the same techniques that get off broken ice and back on solid ground.

Several of us took an afternoon ski with Frida last January and what impressed me most about her was this:  no matter what our level of proficiency, she actively drew the group together, praising all of us, making us all feel like amazing Outdoor Adventurers. 

I don’t suspect many of us will be headed to the North Pole anytime soon; however, opening the door and walking outside might prove a similar experience this week!

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