this frozen world

Boyfriend surprised me with a new digital camera for Christmas, and I am viewing the dim, glimmering, frozen northern world around me differently through its lens.

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Last week Boyfriend flew off to sunny Sarasota. He will enjoy the holidays with Mickey Mouse, palm trees, and tanned relative natives. Already he’s utilized the fact that you can share your iPhone Photo Stream  and thus your vacation with your snow-bound girlfriend.

In his absence, for my part, I’ve promised to practice on my new device, to show him the wonders of my Minnesota Christmastime when he returns.

It’s a cold December here. Although many of us Minnesotans toddled in these snowy streets, I see shoppers padded like bubble-wrapped china, breakable beings floating through a world of frost. No one leaves home without mittens and boots.  At the bookstore, we are brave to ponder the clearance books outside Magers and Quinn for even a moment.

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At P.F. Chang’s for a holiday lunch before my family attends a show, we order two pots of steaming ginger peach tea. If we lived in Florida, or Hawaii, or someplace balmy, would we order icy drinks with umbrellas instead? We have had enough ice. We are a state covered in ice. We sip our hot tea as if it will thaw our driveway, and our lakes, and whatever ice has collected in our lungs and eyelashes and hearts.
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The lake is calm because it is solid. A man on hockey skates strokes his way around the perimeter. A lone ice house sits off to one side. It is cold. My fingers feel like rubber.

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I’ve trudged many a time around the path that circles the lake, many times in deep snow. But this time, camera dangling from my gloved wrist, I stop often.

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Last week as I unwrapped the camera, Boyfriend reminded me how I complained that the last camera didn’t take good night pictures. This is true. I take shots now, at dusk, and the lens captures the blue of the night, the ice in the horizon, crystal clear.

People at school always asked me why I would want to move back to Minnesota after college. It’s so cold, they whimpered.

Yes. Temperatures in the teens as of late, I’ve done my share of grumbling.

Shopping for stocking stuffers last night, I had to smile at the hats and red noses and fast walkers going in and out of the stores. There’s something so resilient about the Minnesota spirit. Yes, it’s cold here. Yes, we require a lot of outerwear if we’d like to leave home. But we keep on. We trudge in the snow, and we drive, and we shop, and we shovel, and we continue to live in the midst of the icy world.

Deep down, though perhaps we sometimes envy the warmer states, I think we all have a love for the way the frozen land becomes something holy at Christmas, the cold snow, the glazed mirror lake.

It’s an arctic northern world here, and this is home. It’s a bone-chilling frigid world, but it’s full of light and color and fellow people warming the scenes.

What keeps us alive is that there’s light and warmth to capture in the midst of the dark cold.

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Really, that’s all we need.

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