It snowed had last night. I could tell by the sound my 70-something neighbor and resident caretaker scraping a shovel along the sidewalk at before 6:00 am. Friends ask about what the winter is like here in northwest Montana. Well, what can I say? The winter is very, very long and very, very grey. Winter out here is the kind with frigid temperatures and almost-daily snow, one that demands tall stacks of wood outside your door for those with a fireplace and a freezer and larder stocked full of sustenance preserved from summer for the next big storm. I dare say it’s not as intimidating as it seems. But that’s because I’ve watched the true Montanans and done my best to assimilate.
Montanans are a hardy bunch. The weather doesn’t seem to phase them. In fact, they revel in the cold temperatures that scare off transplants hailing from warmer locales. I hardly ever hear complaints about it being too cold from them. What’s the point? They know the drill. I do, however, hear rumblings of there not being enough snow. And there being too many people on the ski mountain.
Folks out here truly live the There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing adage. Temperatures aren’t “bad,” they are merely guidelines for what to wear and what to stick in your pack. Because you can’t just stay inside when it’s cold. There’s alpine skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling for the adventure junkies, and snowshoeing and nordic skiing for those looking for a bit more peace. It doesn’t matter which you choose, but if you’re going to live here, you pick something.
Then there’s he darkness to tend to. Time to haul out those projects and passions that got pushed to the back burner during summer when it seemed that the sun would never set. It is also time to embrace what the Nordic folk call hygge; not the term that has become rather bastardized in the U.S. as a means to sell blankets and candles but rather the art of creating joy and intimacy among friends ( the best definition I could find, by Magnus Nilson no less). Coffee with neighbors at a cafe or a meal with friends (my chosen method)… anything where you’re creating a jovial environment with others will do.
And at last, for those who don’t follow any of the above and stay indoors for the first months of winter, there are events that give a big ‘ol nudge that says Come on down! We’re all in this together come February. I’m told many border on outrageous either in action (Cabin Fever Days) or in dress (Whitefish Carnival). But what can I tell you, cabin fever is real.