Chilling in The Mitten

The freezing gust of wind slices through my jeans and infiltrates the openings of my bundled jacket, spreading the cold throughout my body. I push my head down against the current and keep trudging until I finally reach the warm refuge of the School of Public Health. It is the first day of winter semester and it feels like the Winter God has just woken from his slumber with a mighty vengeance.

The view from outside my apartment in Hartland, MI

I should preface: I am a southern California girl at heart. Furthermore, for the last ten years I’ve been living in southwest Arizona in the sunniest city in the United States.  Before I moved to Michigan, I didn’t even own a jacket. So it might be important to keep that in mind as I recount my morning walk to school in weather that I’m sure a seasoned Michigander wouldn’t think twice about. Nonetheless, for those that are not from The Mitten or a similar cold climate, this cold is something to reckon with – or sometimes to run away from, as my fiancé, a Michigan native, notes exasperatedly every time I sprint into the grocery store from the parking lot if it’s ever under 40 degrees.

While I’ll admit to not being accustomed to the ways of the cold, I am learning. This is my second Michigan winter and last December I just learned what depth of snow I should not try to drive through. I also subsequently discovered how to get your car even more stuck (Protip: don’t stubbornly press that gas until you dig yourself into an icy hole). However, I then learned the proper methods of getting a car unstuck. I am finding out that long underwear is a godsend in the blistering wind and that scarves are not just fashion statements. I also learned that Ugg boots are actually terrible in the height of winter because they’re not waterproof and are ridiculously slippery on ice – and here I thought they were premium snow boots.

There is no way around it: extreme cold weather can be plain miserable at times. However, for every time I feel frustrated, freezing, or forlorn with snowy blues (and Seasonal Affect Disorder is a real thing), there are always more wonderful parts of the cold that make it more than worth it.

The breathtaking way the sun rises over a blanket of freshly-fallen snow, outdoor ice-skating in Martius Park in downtown Detroit, skiing or snowboarding down powder-like snow and taking selfies with friends while riding up the lift, easing into a rocking chair with steaming hot-chocolate in front of a fireplace, a WHITE Christmas, making a snowman, and lastly – one of my personal favorites – simply watching the beautiful way snowflakes gently fall from the sky on lazy afternoon.

I think I’ll always be a southern California girl, but there is no denying that moving to Michigan has shown me what wondrous gifts true winter has to offer. As I head into my second semester here in Ann Arbor, I look forward to exploring more of these adventures and opportunities that I would not be able to experience back home. What’s next on my winter bucket list, you might ask? Ice-climbing, cross-country skiing, and ice-fishing.

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