In northern Minnesota there’s a fifth season, one that doesn’t really have a name and that most folks who live south of the Great Lakes couldn’t understand. For the sake of argument today I’ll call it “Pre-Spring.” This season peaks right now. It’s sort of like spring in that things are melting. But it’s also like winter in that the lakes are still frozen and if you send your kids outside for too long you might find them frozen to the side of your garage. It’s not just a season. I contend that it’s a test written specifically for the people of the North to ensure that our souls are worthy of our mailing addresses.
This past week I went for my first run in three months. In previous years I have maintained a disciplined (in that it could be measured) running regimen that spanned the full calendar year. When the weather got cold, I would dress warmly. When our road got slippery, I would wear these fancy chains on my sneakers. But that was all a long time ago (OK, a year), before I went from being a father of one to being a father of three. This year we have baby twins at home, a toddler and a crazy dog, so all my willpower collapsed to the floor where it was probably eaten by an infant crawling too fast to properly identify.
So my running had been on hold. That is, until I realized that it was pre-spring and that I wouldn’t need the foot chains or extra layers. There’s something about that level of involvement that kept me from running when there was so much going on inside the house. When you have to suit up, strap chains to your shoes and then run, stretch and shower you’re talking about 45 minutes at the least, probably an hour. In that time, our children may have possibly caused the house to implode due to the sheer force of their vibration. It really makes sitting on the couch a viable alternative to running.
Looking out the kitchen window one morning this week, however, I saw bright sunlight, flowing water on the concrete garage apron and patches of brown grass replacing the white canvas that had until recently been our yard. I wouldn’t need the shoe chains. One polar fleece and a pair of sweatpants would suffice. The babies were napping and the toddler was otherwise occupied. I could run and probably get away with it. So I did.
And it was great, except that it was deceptively cold. Despite the bright spring sunlight, a bitter north wind iced my hands. The melting snow on our dirt road was still slippery, which forced me to run in the sludgy mud along the roadside. The whistling wind forced me to turn up my iPod to an unsafe level, at least according to some doctor who said something that I couldn’t hear. (He looked very concerned. It was probably important). Though I enjoyed the first good run of the season, I couldn’t help but notice the strange season we all endure, but that few from down south (you know, Iowa) would understand.
We northern Minnesotans now live in a world where a pretty girl in shorts and a tank top could walk by moments before a blizzard buries our entire region. This is a difficult place to live. It’s hard for the human mind to comprehend such a place or such a season. Fortunately, we’re used to this around here. It’s just Pre-Spring, or Sprinter, or Winting, or whatever you want to call the weird time before temperatures, and perhaps our very existence, can be predicted.
Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Read more or contact him at his blog www.minnesotabrown.com.