Getting out of the Burrow

why we should fight the urge to withdraw during the Chippewa Valley’s cold season

Katie Venit, photos by Timothy Mather

Candlelight snowshoe event on the Red Cedar Trail.
Candlelight snowshoe event on the Red Cedar Trail.

I become more introverted in the winter. Something about the cold makes me want to badger up in a burrow until the sun comes back. Which was fine for Wisconsin’s early miners and, you know, actual badgers, but as a modern human being with central heating, I know the best way to enjoy winter is to reject my burrowing tendencies. Leaving the house is cold, but it’s brighter out there, and I (almost) never regret joining the rest of humanity in actively living despite the cold. So I’m going to get started on my winter resolutions and make the most of this quote-unquote magical season. 

Something about the cold makes me want to badger up in a burrow until the sun comes back. Which was fine for Wisconsin’s early miners and, you know, actual badgers, but as a modern human being with central heating, I know the best way to enjoy winter is to reject my burrowing tendencies.

I’ll start by addressing my greatest embarrassment as an upper Midwesterner: I don’t know how to cross-country ski. Not only do I not know how to ski, I don’t have clue one about how it works. Do you strap them onto your regular boots? Why do trails need to be groomed? How many “I’s” are in “skiing”? (Thank you, spell check.) After this winter, I resolve to be embarrassed no more! On this particular, very specific subject, at least! I resolve here and now that I will learn how to put the dang things on. Beaver Creek Reserve, one of my favorite places that I don’t make enough time for, rents skis for shockingly cheap. While I’m there, I resolve to buy tickets for one of their candlelight snowshoe hikes. Husband and I did that once, before kids, and it is still one of my favorite winter experiences.   

Speaking of kids, I want mine to appreciate all the culture we have to offer in the Chippewa Valley. We’re so lucky to have access to fine venues that charge very little, or nothing. The Eau Claire Children’s Theatre is putting on some promising shows this winter (Winnie the Pooh in March has my kids’ names written all over it). I also want to introduce them to real music before they start insisting we listen to Taylor Swift on repeat. In addition to quite a few national touring performances, the Haas Fine Arts Center on the UW-Eau Claire campus hosts classical music performances, including many free faculty and student recitals and other inexpensive shows that would be perfect for bringing my kids to and then leaving 10 minutes later when they decide they’d rather slide down icy sidewalks on their bottoms.

UWEC hosts one of my other favorite things that I haven’t taken much advantage of: cheap movies! The UWEC Campus Film Series has brought in a number of terrific films to the Davies Center, and – I’m not lying – they give you free popcorn. Between that and the recently refurbished Micon Downtown Budget Cinema, I may resolve next year to never again pay full price for a movie ticket.

Winter is the best season for introspection. As an areligious person, I guiltlessly skip church every week, but I also recognize that I’m missing out on that chance to nurture my spiritual side, a gap I’ve been feeling lately as the news gets scarier. This winter I will finally stop bugging my church-going friends about what their experience is like and actually experience it firsthand by visiting a church, Buddhist sangha, or other religious meeting that might welcome a heathen such as myself who has no intention of converting. I also resolve to attend some centering events offered at The Center and try some yoga classes at one of our many yoga studios.

Perhaps the most important of my resolutions is to get more involved in the community, to really stretch past my introverted shell and help make my home a better place. I’ve already started this process, having recently joined the team on the new Chippewa Valley literary journal, Barstow & Grand. Its mission is to support local writers by providing an outlet for publication, a cause I definitely believe in. I’ll be one of the readers, which means I’ll have the honor of reading all the prose that you all send in. I also want to get more involved and outspoken in the political process, to tell my representatives how they can better represent me.

So these are my winter resolutions, my reasons to put on the heavy coat and trudge into the cold, cold snow to experience the bright, wide open world beyond my burrow and connect with fellow human beings. What are yours?

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