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Surviving in the Great White North

A Midwesterner’s first winter in Syracuse, New York

So I have to say, it’s not much colder than it is in the Midwest during the winter. It stays at the lower temperatures longer, but the low temps below zero are nothing that I’m not used to. There seems to be a lot less wind here- and that helps as sometimes windchill can be the worst part.

The biggest difference up here is the snow. In the Midwest we literally have to build our own lakes- while up here these Northerners are flush with natural lakes- and all of the Great Lakes. In Syracuse we get something called the “lake effect” which basically means that we get a shit ton of snow, because the wind is blowing directly over the water and then blowing our way.

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This car regularly gets buried

Shoveling becomes a pretty routine morning ritual- and sometimes something that has to be done two or three times a day depending on the level of snow we’re getting.

The snow is beautiful- and magical, and you can build real snow houses.

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But the things is that it can start to be a bit mundane when you continue to wake up every morning to a white carpet of snow on the ground- and a white sky. The sun very rarely comes out up here due to the fact that the sky is always ready to snow.

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The lack of sun inevitably leads to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for the general population. People try a variety of methods- from vitamin D pills to lights that attempt to simulate the sun. The lack of sun is not the most frustrating part for me thus far- the most frustrating part has been not being able to get around town- or leave town- in a free way. We don’t have enough money (or just don’t want to spend money) on snow tires- which are basically a requirement for getting around up here. While it is snowing- the snow plows are not able to get all the streets taken care of at once- so you might find yourself driving through a half foot of road snow or more on your way home from a meeting.

On one particularly bad snow day- I decided to walk to where I needed to go. I had snow boots- and thought that would be sufficient. It was not.

For one — sidewalks are not cleared by the city, so it is dependent on house residents to clear their own sidewalks. This leads to sidewalks not getting cleared- and so that day I had two feet of fresh snow to stomp through for most of the mile hike to the post office (I needed stamps).

Since the sidewalks are not cleared- most people who choose to walk do so in the streets. I did not feel comfortable with this- mostly because I know how hard it is to control my own car on these snowy streets- and don’t want to provide drivers with another obstacle to maneuver around. So instead I guessed where I thought the sidewalk was, and paved my own path. Stepping through the snow- it came up to my knees in some places. Other places- I had to walk in the street because the snow was piled up taller than me.

I am learning, though! In this kind of weather- snow shoes are actually something that people use (more so as a sport than to get to the post office, though). I’m a bit intimidated by the snow shoes- but vow to try it sometime while I’m up here.

Anyway, a feeling of claustrophobia sets in when you feel like you can’t even run routine errands. Or, you can, but you’re probably going to fall face flat in the snow a few times.

I recently took up running again. I realized that the snow is not going anywhere- and I was going to learn to exist with it. After a few days running and slipping through the snow in my sneakers- my friend introduced me to Yaktraks- they are similar to crampons with spikes that people use when they are mountain climbing in the snow.

As a Yakraks newbie I went for an hour job with them on like this — backwards.

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But they still worked great though- regardless if I had them on wrong.

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I didn’t slip at all, and felt a satisfying grip under my feet for every block that I jogged.

It hadn’t snowed in a week or so when I went jogging- and as you can imagine snow doesn’t stay pretty when it hangs around for a week. Everlasting piles of roadside slush…

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and frequent dog pee spots…

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and trash become a regular feature of the landscape.

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But hey, you’re in the Great White North. And you’re learning something about the diversity of the human experience. You gotta enjoy it- you’re learning.

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Like what you read? Check out my blog at everydayembellishments.wordpress.com

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© Copyright 2018 Annie Windholz

midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe — http://eepurl.com/cZoiG9

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