There is at least 10 inches of standing snow in some places. It's turned into that hard, crusty, dense stuff by days of minor thaws and nightly freezes, combined with layer upon layer upon layer. Seemingly every day we get at least a few millimeters more at the very least. We've picked up a few inches more than we haven't during the last few weeks. If not for a late December thaw that lasted about a week and a half, we'd still have all the snow we started getting in early November. It's mid-February but last weekend the temperature hit -5 mid day like it was mid January. One of those clear, bitter cold days that cut through all your layers and hit you like a frosty brick to the face when you step out of your warm condo.
Despite all this, I'm starting to get... the bug.
After the last two years of moving around from city to city, we've finally arrived in what we have agreed (by we, I mean my wife, Beenie, and me.... not the we in the royal sense... welcome to the Blog) would be the final stop on our track. We are finally here in Madison.
Growing up 30 minutes down the road in a large town which is now regarded by some as a suburb (despite miles and miles of cornfields betwixt them) of Madison, I always looked at this city as the shining beacon at the end of the road. The Golden Castle. It was bustling, cosmopolitan, far more socially adventurous than my little white-bread corner of farm country. In High School, going to State Street was the ultimate cool thing. I've been coming here for years. Driving in for a night on the town at bars and restaurants I never had access to at home. I had my first drink here. I had my first Sushi here (sadly, at a Sushi Ya that is no longer there).
Life, as usual, has it's way of unfolding as it will and a year into our arrival, Madison hasn't been everything we thought it would be.
I've always liked Madison because it is the middle porridge. Not to hot, not to cold... just right. It's a small city, but it's got so many resources at it's fingertips. The UW, the State Capitol, the gigantor medical industry that this town supports... it's huge. But it's still tucked in, wrapped around and intertwined with four beautiful lakes. One of those clever towns that decided long ago to restrict the height of it's buildings based on the tippy top of the Capitol Dome. This is also a town that values it's greenspace, so between the parks, the lakes and the lack of big skyscrapers means that... well.. the wind still gets in here. Combined with the fact that it's still a small city and it sits between the rolling cornfields to the east and the rolling hills of the driftless zone to the west means that this town is just right for an educated, eclectic city dweller who likes good food and 24 hour grocery stores, but still remembers his childhood tramping around the woods and countryside.
What I did not know about Madison however, was that this town, for all it's liberal political glory, is ground central for the new so-called liberal/whiny bitch/entitlement yuppie crowd. A lot of professionals, working in a lot of office buildings, buying into a LOT of woolly thinking. So we've got a lot of snake oil being sold, and the organic/vegi/vegan crowd has to be represented at every restaurant bar none. This gets awfully annoying to the offal eating foodie of my soul.
Combine that with a major financial/personal setback for Beenie not long after we moved here and our first year in Madison was nothing we thought it would be.
But, like the stubborn asses we are (a trait that is both the blessing and the curse of our existences), we have vowed to bravely soldier on.
And so, I have not let the time go dully by me. My long, frozen exile this winter has given me time to rethink my strategy. Having previously drawn the majority of my entertainment from an erstwhile group of friends who are now 2 moves, 30 mins and a paradigm shift behind me, I have decided to strike out into new territory and start getting back to the things that made me happy and healthy as a kid... the woods.
It's been a while, but I've scoured the internet for a local Mushroom hunting group, a Wild Edibles class in northern Wisconsin and I've concocted a long term plan to go hunting for bigger game this fall. All I need now... is the weather.
A week and a half back, Beenie and I walked outside on a Saturday to blue skies and 45 degrees. The wind was still cold and damp but the sun was making the most of it and you could hear water dripping and dribbling from everywhere. It hit me then, like a wild tingle up my spine. The first summer high. Blue skies and warm air mean summer. In Winter, it's only clear when it's painfully cold. That was, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the first shot of the war. Summer has arrived and the battle has begun.
Since then, the Wintersmith has been whining like someone tried to take away his toy. Snow, more snow, bitter cold for a week. But bitch as much as he does, once again, the tide of inevitability will win. The thaw will come and come soon and Winter will break. Like a sailor preparing to leave port, I've started checking the barometer. I'm reading all the long term weather forecasts and planing how to make good my escape. It's time to leave the condo and get mud on my boots.