Inner Shackleton

“Durango looks like Antarctica,” the small figure declared as it ping-ponged between enormous snowberms, occasionally scaling up one side and careening down the next.

Granted, I have never been to the southern ocean, let alone south of the equator, but come to think of it, our morning commutes had taken on a Shackleton-esque feel over the last few months. The landscape had been a dreary shade of permagray, punctuated by harrowing iceberg filled straits, crampon-worthy crosswalks and hairball descents of glacial proportions. As of yet, however, there had been no need to sacrifice the family sled dog (much to the disappointment of her detractors) or hole up in an emergency bivvy.

Truth be told, however, what at first was a novel morning adventure had now become a numbing daily slog. Call me a winter weenie, but I guess somewhere between that first big dump back in October, the January slush storm, the $500 ice dam removal bill and the luge course that was once our front stairs, winter has lost a little bit of its luster. (I say “a little,” because, mind you, I’m still heavily partaking in the snowsports aspect and will never tire of another powder day.) Let’s just say that shoveling has moved farther down on my urgent “to-do” list, right above filing my taxes and vacuuming the car, and I’ve all but given up hope for those hundreds of missing mitten orphans (all left-handed, which makes me suspect some sort of bizarre alien plot.) And I know I pretend to be all cool and all, but the other day, I heard on the radio that there were 25 more days of winter, and I started to cry. Sob, actually. Which was a bad idea, because when I went outside to walk to dog, my eyelids froze shut and I failed to successfully navigate the final jump turn onto the Sixth Avenue icefall, went into a Scooby-do running man on my Yak Trax, and severely strained what can only be described as my upper side-butt muscle.

So, as much as I hate to say it: uncle (which beats what I said that fateful morning of the sprain.)

I know, if a little snow is my biggest complaint in life, then I really don’t have one (a complaint or a life, for that matter). Think of all those poor, deprived skiers up north who’ve spent their entire season on rock boards, pathetically glued to the Weather Channel and whose under-exercised quads have atrophied to measly specs of beef jerky. Or what about those deprived Olympians who have been forced to perform on trucked-in snow or train on overcrowded, nonpersonalized halfpipes (no offense to Shaun White, of course.) They’re practically foaming at the mouth over the prospect of a few measly skiffs of the white stuff. And here we are, wallowing in it – quite literally.

And it’s not that I’m ungrateful, it’s just that, a few weeks back, I had this dream. I was riding my bike down superbuff singletrack, the warm breeze in my hair (like I said, it was a dream) and the golden sunshine on my face. I think there may have even been a little skin exposure involved. Anyway, I awoke to the harsh reality that my bike was still in hibernation and any exposure I was likely to get for a while was going to be of the hypothermic kind. And, to top it off, it was still snowing for the fourth day in a row.

I like to think of it as a bizarre mix of cabin and summit fever. The end is so close, you can practically see it/ the days are getting longer and you know the uphill slog can’t go on forever. Of course, if left untreated, it can lead to obsessive delusions over otherwise mundane things like dirt, barbecues and flip flops. Heck, even mowing the lawn sounds new and exotic.

It is at this precise time we all need to dig deep and summon our inner-Shackleton. Never mind that he had a ship half the size of the other explorers or that it was called the “Nimrod.” The point is, he overcame adverse conditions and a lot of snickering behind his back to reach the South Pole. Or come damned near close, which was good enough for knighthood and some pretty good bragging rights at the round table. Which, hopefully, is where we’ll all find ourselves, a few, short – but possibly long and excrutiating – weeks from now. Outside, with the tulips in bloom and the sun shining. And as we crack another ice cold beer in the seemingly-sweltering 60-degree heat, we can sit back in the comfort of our slightly worn patio chair recently excavated from several feet of snow, and toast the winter of 2009-10. What a doozy it was.

After all, even Antarctica has a summer, doesn’t it?

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows