White, white, white. You’d imagine it’s a bleak vista we endure for our several winter months in the UP, wouldn’t you? But it’s actually not a stark landscape at all.
Looking out my window, I can see the shapely limbs of the stripped maple trees, the green pine branches against the cerulean sky, and, because the sun is shining just right, the billions of dazzling flickers of light that sparkle across the snow.
Winter has many moods. Just two days ago, we had one of our infamous St. Patrick’s Day storms. It brought raw winds, snow gusts, and a much-needed snow day for me. But, today, the sun invites everyone outdoors to snow shoe, ski, or snowmobile.
In the Anishinaabe tradition, winter was the time for storytelling. After working hard all spring, summer, and fall, there was finally time for people to sit around the fire and share their stories (not that they didn’t work throughout the winter as well). This oral tradition provided a continuity of cermonial information and traditions for the next generations.
For me, after a day of teaching my fourth grade students, it’s a time to read or write on those cold, blowy days. I always find myself more reflective during these winter months as I’m nestled into the comfort of my warm house.
On days like today, however, when the outdoors beckon me, it’s a time to venture outside. A time to create my own stories. A simple walk down a powdery trail feeds all of my senses.
Like the Anishinaabe people, I harvest these experiences to add to my own folklore bounty. They shape my writing and my teaching as though part of my physiological landscape.
The warmth of the sun penetrates the cold air- air which has its very own smell. Little bursts of color from pine needles, Michigan winterberry, or the rainbow prism of the sun-sparkled snow, while the wind whistling its way around me completes my winter sensory diet.
The beauty of the Upper Peninsula is that it invites anyone to come and create a new story in its beautiful outdoors. If you haven’t experienced winter in the UP, you should come up and find your story.