Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Harley Space 40 lb Sturgeon Icefishing

"Harley Space 40 lb. Sturgeon." Digital Image. Undated. Original photography privately
held by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski. Copyright (c) Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski. 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

52 Weeks Personal Genealogy & History: Winter

Thanks to Amy Coffin of We Tree Genealogy members of the geneabloggers family will be embarking on another year of recording our personal family history. This week's challenge has to do with winter and offers the prompt:

What was winter like where and when you grew up? Describe not only the climate, but how the season influenced your activities, food choices, etc.

Being a life-long resident of the upper Midwest, winter is a season I literally have lived with my entire life. It is kizmet that the subject of my first blog post of 2011 is winter; winter was also the subject of a couple of Wordless Wednesday posts, including a photo of my grandfather during the early 1900s.

Long before the term global warming became part of our vocabulary, my childhood memories of winter is that the snow was deeper, the temperatures colder and winter seemed to last far longer than it does today. But then again, my winter memories may be a bit spacial challenged. In my minds eye, Christmas trees were at least 10 feet tall and the depth of the snow had to have been no less than six or seven feet deep. Photographs tell a different story.

While I have come to accept - and embrace - winter, I have age (!) as well as technology to thank for this being a peace with Old Man Winter. Memories of playing outside immediately bring to mind frozen fingers and toes - sometimes to the point of tears. The handmade mittens my Grandmother Bergeron made were no match for today's dry technology, wicking away persperation and keeping my fingers toasty warm.

Bulky snowsuits were a godsend back in the 50's and 60's and extended our time spent outside until enough snow and persperation increased your weight by at least five pounds!  Remember the scene of Randy being dressed by his mother in the holiday classic Christmas Story : "I can't put my arms down." That scene, repeated in my family kitchen is why I fondly remember my first pair of 'bib' snowpants, not to  mention the fact a decrease in the chance of snow escaping past the waistband of my snow pants.

Pulling on a pair of boots in the 1950's was a lesson in patience. As if it wasn't difficult enough getting your shoes inside the boots (the rubber reaching out and grabbing your shoe) or that at some point during your winter adventure, your sock would begin to creep down your foot, past your ankle and bunch up somewhere around the arch of your foot - getting your shoe back out of the boot when you are cold and wet was misearble. If you were lucky, your foot immediately came out of your shoe, leaving you (or Mom!) to work the shoe out of the boot at a later time.

All that winter brings with it - snow, cold, ice - was accepted as part of life. Our activities may have included more time spent inside than we did during the rest of the year but it brought with it enertainment we looked forward to and enjoyed: skating, skiing, sledding, building forts and having snowball fights. Catching snowflakes on your tongue, during the spring 'maple syrup run' my grandfather use to scoop snow into a bowl and drizzle maple sap or syrup for a wonderful treat.

I recall my grandfather saying that January was his least favorite month as this is the time of the year when temperatures in northern Wisconsin often are below zero for days at a time. I'm sure this is a sentiment today's dairy farmers and loggers still share. When we are into our third day of minus wind chill even I am dreaming of a sun, white sand beaches - and warmth!

There is beauty in a winter landscape when we choose to view our surrounds as a gift. When I think of my winter childhood memories I am reminded of the poem by Bill Morgan, Jr.:

Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.

With the exception of Bill Morgan's poem, all text and photograph is
copyright (c) Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski. 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

In Celebration of Winter Life

I'm not sure when I made peace with winter. Rather than a singular moment noted on a calendar, it is more likely it was a slow evolution when my complaining, lamenting, whining and self-absorbed hissy snits at the seemingly endless months of cold, dark, freezing cold was replaced with acceptance.

It could have been when I strapped on my first pair of snow shoes and ventured out beyond the plowed and shoveled walkways and into the quiet winter landscape. Deer, porcupine, mice, weasel and fisher leave trails across the winter landscape. Chickadees and nuthatches call out from the leafless branches, Blue Jays sound the alarm joined in by Red Squirrels.

Cold, colorless and devoid of life? Hardly.

I'm not surprised that we pay more attention to nature when it is ablaze with color. During the spring and autumn we look to the sky to watch  the flocks of geese and cranes as they make their annual migration, marking the change in the seasons. But in the quiet of winter we become the final destination of many migrating birds: Trumpeter Swans find their way to this section of the Wisconsin River either on a stop-0ver or to spend the winter months.

Northern Hawk Owls and Snowy Owls, a bird that breeds and nests in the Arctic also migrate south. Finding a Snowy Owl perched on a fencepost or the small Northern Hawk Owl in the top of a balsam is a breathtaking moment.

The lesson I take back home is that too many times we fail to see the beauty of life even when it  is right in front of us. In fact, how much of life's beauty do we miss because we are busy having our own hissy snit fits?

I wonder ... what would happen if I spread out my research brick walls and looked at them with a new attitude? If I put aside what I think I know about my ancestor and see what happens?


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