Greetings from the Northwoods of Wisconsin, where I’ve already had several melt-downs waiting for the slightest hint of warm weather to arrive, and by warm, I mean anything in the double digits. The sun was out in full force yesterday however, and a different sort of melt-down occurred with a new office swimming pool where the parking lot used to be. I took several breaks to chop ice and scoop water away from the building and saw Brenda across the street at Karsyn’s Korner doing the same thing – ah the glamourous life of a business owner! But don’t break out the bikini yet, upon this morning’s arrival the pool is now an ice rink.
As the very productive snow season finally comes to an end, we will be making our way into what is truly the quiet stretch of time up north. The weather ahead looks calm and mild, a good thing because Mother Nature has a lot of work to do before it really feels like spring. You can’t rush her, but you can’t stop her either, which I feel like should be my own personal slogan these days.
The need to escape the cold causes many people to fly the Midwest coop this time of year, some more fervently than others. My mom’s upcoming spring break was featured in The Week magazine’s Travel & Leisure section, ‘A Journey Through the many moods of French Polynesia.’ The travel author writes of ‘touching down in Huahine, a lush garden of an island bursting with giant flowers and a gentle, unassuming air.’ As he walks around, islanders hand him fresh pineapple to eat and cracked coconuts to drink. ‘The vanilla farms and warm ocean wind smell like ice cream, and there’s also the unique scent of tiare, the national flower – a calming, sunny, lemony perfume. Whenever I set foot on a new island’, he writes, ‘someone drapes a garland of it around my neck.’
Um, ex-squeeze me? As far as vacations go, that sounds about as good as it gets and a girl could almost turn green with envy from here in the land of mud and ice. Luckily for me, my Ancestry DNA was recently returned, and I think it’s safe to say that I’m of a certain stock that weathers the winter well. Drumroll, please…..I am of West Germanic and Scandanavian descent, with just a tinge of Irish and French – apparently enough to party on March 17th and enjoy wine and food pairings, anyway. And after some light research of the traits associated with my newfound heritage, I firmly believe my particular DNA well equips me for spring in Wisconsin. Following, a few of stereotypes that stem from the regions of my people, which I wholeheartedly embrace:
- You worship the sun with a passion Even if it’s only 12 degrees Celsius, at the first sign of sun in March in Norway you dig a skirt out of the back of your wardrobe, jump on your bike and meet your girlfriends on a ‘terrasje’ to celebrate the end of winter with as many as glasses of wine you need to make you forget about the goosebumps on your bare, white legs (because in reality it’s still freezing cold). Absolutely true. We spent last Sunday afternoon sitting in lawn chairs on the frozen lake, listening to The Beach Boys and playing fetch with the dog in the snow. Wine was consumed but no cooler was necessary. We even had a view of the islands! (The Lynx Lake ones, not the Polynesian ones.)
- You like to leave your curtains open all the time The Dutch are not easily shamed and don’t care if people watch what’s going on in the living room. You have nothing to hide after all, right? Another idea I wholeheartedly support! Dance party in the kitchen? You betcha. It’s Springtime, let the sunshine in, let the fresh air in. I’d say throw open the curtains but we don’t even have any! Come to think of it, we don’t have any neighbors either.
- You’re comfortable with skin Nudity in Finland is matter of fact. Random members of the public will strip buff at the beach, in swimming pool or gym change rooms, or at one of 2.2 million Finnish saunas – any situation where being nude is required or practical. I have long been a proponent of ‘honestly what’s the big deal we’re all naked underneath’, and think swimsuits in hot tubs are especially dumb. Ours is on the deck facing the lake, however, and not every kayaker passing by in the summer shares my people’s love for nude. Spring is the one time that you can be assured of a safe skinny dip (or chunky dunk) in the hot tub with nary a fisherman nor snowmobiler the wiser!
- You’re a lone wolf In Scandinavia, small, remote populations and a strong focus on community cohesion means they collect friends in kindergarten and stick with them for life, which makes it hard for foreigners to bust in. It’s not that they don’t like you, it’s just that they don’t need you. This may sound harsh to my friends reading from afar, but bear with me on this one. I love meeting visitors, delight in the return of each snowbird come summer, and especially cherish welcoming new year-rounders into the community. That said, I don’t exactly hate having the town (practically) to myself for just a little while in the spring. True, many restaurants and businesses close for a spell to catch their breaths before summer, deservedly so. But for the ones that don’t, Spring is a great chance to catch up with the local friends and family who are otherwise too busy.
- You love fish Water, water everywhere. Norwegians in particular, with over 25,000km of coastline, are renowned fish eaters – from fiskesuppe (fish soup) to røkt laks (smoked salmon). Herring comes in cans, caviar comes in tubes, and Omega 3 oil comes in waterfalls. If I was even a little in doubt as to the validity of my DNA results, this one seals the deal. Case in point, please review the text conversation I had with my best friend this morning (the one I’ve had since grade school, please see #4) where we display more excitement over planning tonight’s fish fry than we would a girls weekend in Vegas:
6. You Love Your Cabin Especially so in Finland, most people would rather retreat to a cabin in the woods – the more remote the better – than to an island in the sun. It’s all about hygge, which translates to the act of being cozy. Yet another concept I can get behind! I love my blankies and comfies and fireplace and doggy and just about anything hygge! And I think I can find a cabin or two in this neck of the woods.
So thanks in part to my Germanic roots, I won’t mind too much being left behind to hold down the home front while my mom walks the white sand beaches. I’ll wait out the spring season right here, where there is ice to melt and fish to eat on Almost an Island.