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Lights on snow (01/25/2012)
By Frances Edstrom

Back in the days before two fake hips entered my life, John and I were avid downhill skiers. We signed up for a YMCA program that bussed us and 38 other people to Mount Frontenac one night a week. There we could take lessons or simply ski to our hearts content. We met some great people who have remained friends, and enjoyed winter sports in a climate where if you don’t, you have about three or four months out of the year that are simply miserable. We also skated almost daily at the rink at Lake Lodge, cross-country skied, snowshoed, snowmobiled, and generally took advantage of Winona winter.

Now that John has forbidden me to do most of those things, thinking that a dislocated fake hip isn’t worth the risk, I’ve had to find other pastimes to fill the long winter hours — mostly indoors, and mostly reading. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t have an appreciation for winter.

John, my sister, and I were in the car over the weekend, and my sister said, “I love the way a winter landscape looks.” John agreed, as do I. My sister said she likes to see the different conformations of the various types of trees. John likes the colors. I like to be able to see into the woods, check the wildlife tracks in the yard and watch the winter-staying birds at the feeder.

And in this dark time of year, I like the lights. Streetlights that go on when dusk approaches, lights from houses and businesses, and lights that my neighbors put up for Christmas, but have kept up to ward off the loneliness of dark winter months.

Once we were riding through Bill and Sharon Stumpf’s Minneapolis neighborhood on a cold, dark January night, having just been to dinner with them. John and I were in the back seat. All of a sudden, Bill exclaimed, “It is just so tacky to leave Christmas lights up after Christmas is over!” I had just been thinking how beautiful the lights were, sparkling in the gloom.

I had a great admiration for Bill. In fact, I was a little in awe of him and his sense of good design. But at that moment, I had to make a decision. Would I change my mind about lights in winter and fall into the Stumpf camp? He might be right. Maybe leaving Christmas lights up in January is tacky. Or, would I follow my heart and continue to find great comfort in the fact that people feel the need to light up the darkness in the world?

I decided that I like light more than being a devotee of Bill’s design sense in this case. In fact, this weekend as we continued to drive, we passed Lake Winona, and I was reminded again of how much I love the idea (was it the Young Professionals group who did it?) of lighting up Lake Lodge so that it sparkles and throws its reflection onto the ice, giving one a feeling of heat even in the dismal cold.

And now I read that the counselor education honor society at WSU is going to hold a snow fort contest in February. How wonderful is that? The whole idea brings back fond memories of my childhood, and that of my children on Washington Street here in Winona. I love the memory of hiding in the snow, insulated from the sights and sounds of the winter day in an icy cocoon. Do you think a couple of snowball fights might break out? A snowball fight introduced my daughter to her lifelong best friend. What could be better than that?

Keep those lights burning! 


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