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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Winter Love

I do not typically love winter, but I do believe I’ve found a new winter love.

I’ve know for a long time the only real way to survive the season is to get outside. Maybe it’s just me. But as much as I feel like staying in where it’s warm and cozy, enjoying the views of the winter landscape from my picture windows—I know. Body, mind and soul. I am a healthier person in all the ways when I immerse myself in God’s wonderland of snow-laden creation.

The first winter we lived on Green Lake was amazing. My husband and I were “working from home”—which is to say, he was doing his normal job, and I was writing a book. And nearly every day included some sort of escape to the out-of-doors. Everything was novel. We bushwhacked our way through our Narnia woods, following deer tracks, leaving our own. Our dog bounded with wild abandon tracking the tantalizing scents of assorted critters and dormant fauna. Some days we’d choose the lake instead of the forest, following the tracks of snowmobiles rather than the wildlife. In my memory that first winter was unusually sunny with moderate temps, a layer of hoarfrost adorning our trees for several dazzling weeks. And I loved it. For the first time in my entire existence I actually said it out loud. I loved winter. But just that once.

Our second winter had some similar vibes—but it wasn’t the same. Temps remained subzero a bit longer; the winds howled a bit harder; the sky and landscape were a tad more dreary. But our dog was persistent, and as much for her sake as ours, we forced ourselves to bundle up for midday walks, and we’d almost always come back invigorated and grateful for it.

Our third winter started a few weeks prior to our most recent Christmas. Temps dropped to frigid in mid-November and by the first days of December we were looking at several inches of heavy snow. My husband left for a 3-week business trip to South America, and I held out hope our early snowfall had been a fluke. Wishful thinking. Advent 2022 was marked by weekly blizzards, and to date—now mid-January—we’ve seen the snowiest start to winter in 30 years. Our roads remain icy, but the lake is topped by several inches of messy slush, thanks to its heavy blanket of insulation. And our 10-day forecasts are day after day after dreary day of nothing but clouds.

That said.

Last winter near the end of the season my sister loaned me a pair of ancient cross-country skis she’d inherited from our thrifty mom. My husband scrounged a second-hand set for himself from an online seller, and with Maple as our hyped companion we were able to try out a bit of lake skiing before the ice melted. Enough to say we’d found a relatively satisfying new sport. Although I’m sure Kyle would not use the word “sport” to describe what he’d likely dub a recreational activity. However…

This past Christmas my hubby blessed me with a brand new set of boots and skis—which means the two of us have made a commitment. Sport or no sport, we’ve gone Nordic. And this brings me back to my opening statement. I’ve found myself a new winter love. But not the lake skiing we might have anticipated. As aforementioned, our dear Green Lake is several inches deep in snow pack and slushy muck. Less than ideal conditions. After an initial attempt in our own frozen backyard, we set off to find a more accommodating solution. And what we found is

Springvale Park.

A literal dream-come-true.

We first discovered Springvale late last summer when my brother’s family visited from Colorado. My teenaged nephew is a serious mountain-biker, and before coming to Minnesota he’d done a Google search to find out where he might get a bit of a workout. Turns out there are some decent trails just 4.4 miles from our own front door. So while Keir hit the bike route the rest of us and Maple went for an absolutely delightful romp through (arguably) the loviest wooded paths in all of Isanti County.

Which is now the beloved location of my new favorite winter sport.

This past Saturday the sky was once again gloomy, but the scenery at Springvale was stunning as Kyle and I glided through the quiet woodland. He led, I followed—hoping he’d remember his way back through the maze of trails. And when he didn’t I was secretly happy. Enjoying every single glorious minute.

Thank you. I love this. Thank you.

I repeated this again and again to God…and then later, after we’d made our way safe and sound back to our waiting car…I said it my husband.

Exactly what I needed. Body, mind and soul.

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