Most of the country knows by now that it’s cold up here in the Northwoods. I would wager that all of us can agree that it’s too cold, in fact. This morning as I walked outside to start my car, I couldn’t help but take a moment to pause and listen. Sometimes when I’m out fishing on my lake during a winter weekday, I will sit there and be amazed that it can be dead silent for long periods of time. I certainly thought that might be the case today; after all, I didn’t believe that anything could possibly be stirring around in weather like this. To my amazement, the forest that surrounds my house was in the middle of playing one of its greatest musical performances. Trees were snapping and popping in all directions and tones, echoing down throughout the creek valley that leaves Culbertson Lake. I found myself memorized by this symphony, at least until until I started feeling a frigid pain start gnawing at my face and nose.
The crunches of my footsteps tried to compete with the forest’s orchestra, but it wasn’t until I opened that car door that the chimes of the trees were brought to their knees by the shriek that came from the door opening. It was such a painful sound I wondered how it was even possible. No horror movie director had ever came up with something so horrendous. Starting the car yielded multiple cries to the heavens above, as if the car itself was questioning why I would think about doing such an evil thing to it. I’m sure at that moment, it wished I had never equipped it with what I call “the life line”—a block heater cord. It’s previous Voyager owners, George and Joanne, now live in Florida and if the car could talk it most certainly would ask them, “why did you leave me here?”
As I headed down Mail Road, each bump was magnified by what seemed like times-ten. The shocks had no give and my leather heated seat, which doesn’t work, was more like sitting on frozen, wooden block equipped with a bucking device. As I crossed Culbertson Creek the Thermometer read -36, which I believe is an all-time low in all my years going to work. That record would not last long to my surprise; while I climbed the gentle hill by the Red Rock it dipped to -37, which then held steady before receding a tiny bit near the clubhouse.
Finally I arrived at my destination. As I climbed out of my car to fill the wood-boiler at the maintenance shop, I heard a lone chickadee calling out into the the morning sunrise; the final notes to this morning’s symphony. To me, this is what is so amazing about living up here in Northern Wisconsin; to experience these extraordinary conditions and know that a tiny bird can live here too and sing during a morning like this. There’s something beautiful in that fact, in this lesson from the chickadee. As I stepped into my heated building to begin the day’s work, I knew that I would be able to get through the day with a smile on my face, too.