On Shoveling Snow in April

When I moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in January I knew I had a long, tough winter ahead of me. I’d heard the half-jokes that winter lasts half the year. I had seen pictures of day after day of snow. I knew even with the poor gas mileage, a four-wheel drive vehicle would be better suited to the conditions than my little Jetta.

What I didn’t know, however, was how it would feel to spend an hour shoveling at the wall of snow between my vehicle and the street just so I could go to the gym or grocery store, my fingers numb beneath two pairs of gloves. I didn’t know I was signing up to chip away at deposits of ice five inches thick on my front steps. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be able to see the sun rise on Easter morning. I wasn’t prepared for April first and second and third to be cold, gray, and wet with snow and no promise of tulips popping through the ground in the near future.

But I also wasn’t ready for the breathtaking views of trees across the river, sparkling as if adorned with a million crowns. I didn’t know I would wake up on multiple mornings and look out the window to find a layer of fluffy, untouched snow on the branches of each tree, softening the edges of the world. I wasn’t ready for the sheer elation of those longed-for blue-sky days when icicles would sparkle and drip from the eaves and I would dance through my apartment, raising the blinds with abandon, throwing open the windows.

The stunning hallelujah sights don’t come without the hours spent shoveling the sidewalk clear of slush and snow and ice, it turns out.

I find this to be true of most of the wonderland places I have seen.

I don’t get the peacefulness of my prairie home without the lonely five-hour drive from the nearest major airport. The hills rolling out in every direction with only fence lines and windmills to interrupt them signify solitude and space to roam, but also seclusion.

I don’t get the unreal views of the Fann Mountains in Central Asia without two days sick in bed with a debilitating stomach bug. The experience of standing in the midst of grand peaks and unassuming villages nestled in their valleys required me leaving my native culture and comforts.

No matter how badly I want to have both ease and awe, they can’t often be found together. The climbing of the mountain makes what I see from the top sweeter. This long winter is the price I pay for the beauty of the UP.

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