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Zaleski: Let it snow, let it snow? Let it not ...

"Winter up there, yet?" said my school friend from the East Coast. "Getting ready to hibernate?" he snickered. "Ha ha," I said. Then we caught up on old friends, the old hometown, the old school and the hope of one last reunion. As usual, it was ...

"Winter up there, yet?" said my school friend from the East Coast. "Getting ready to hibernate?" he snickered.

"Ha ha," I said. Then we caught up on old friends, the old hometown, the old school and the hope of one last reunion. As usual, it was a nice visit.

But I got to thinking: It seems nearly every conversation I have with distant high school or college friends starts with a remark about North Dakota's winter weather. Most of them are New Englanders. Winter is no stranger to them. But having grown up in New England, I know winter there is a pussycat when compared to North Dakota's lion.

Up to now, I've laughed off winter. I'd tell my never-been-here friends how well-prepared North Dakotans are for the cold, snow and wind. I'd tell them how we enjoy the beauty of winter; cold-weather sports; the crisp, clean air; the guarantee of a white Christmas; the excitement, apprehension and frenetic preparing that course through the city when a blizzard warning is posted. It can be exhilarating.

But no more. For the first time in my life, I will not spin an idyll about winter's alleged joys. Fact is, there is little about which to be joyous. Less, it seems, as one gets older. Maybe that's it. Age is the factor that changes perceptions of winter.

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I've done all the get-ready-for-winter stuff: snowblower oiled and greased; shovels out and standing like soldiers waiting for action; furnace serviced; woodstove chimneys cleaned; several cords of firewood split and stacked; pickup truck checked for winter; boots, gloves, hats and parkas at the ready. Same routine for 40 years.

But whereas in previous years I reveled in putting the snowblower to the test in the first snowfall, this year I hope the machine stays silent in the shed. The once-welcome exercise of shoveling snow now is a guarantee of a backache and assorted muscle pains that persist for two days or more. It's not the shoveling. I can still horse a shovel with the best of 'em. It's recovery time. It's my fit but undeniably older body saying, "Go easy, pal ..."

There is no "go easy" in a Red River Valley winter. Whether clearing the walk of drifts or driving through a whiteout or walking a block into the icy teeth of a 20-degree-below-zero wind chill, "easy" is not what comes to mind.

Yeah, I know, we residents of the far north are supposed to be hearty and tough. But as wisdom creeps into our frozen psyches, hardy and tough seem more like stupid and stubborn.

So when the seasonal song happily says, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow," I will grimly wish, "Let it not ..."

Contract Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at jzaleski@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5521.

Related Topics: WEATHER
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