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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

El Ski-No

Air Date: Week of

El Niño has got weather systems in a tail spin from California to the coast of East Africa, and many places in between. Commentator Susan Carol Hauser laments that El Niño is putting some strange moves in to the traditional northern Minnesota winter. Susan Carol Hauser is author of "Sugartime: The Hidden Pleasures of Making Maple Syrup." She comes to us from member station K-B-B-I in Bemidji.


CURWOOD: El Niño. It's got weather systems in a tailspin from California to the coast of East Africa, and many a place in between. Commentator Susan Carol Hauser laments that El Niño is putting some strange moves into the usual northern Minnesota winter.

HAUSER: Here in northern Minnesota, we don't rely much on the consistency of seasons. Spring can be late and still long. Fall can be early and short. Sometimes summer hardly comes at all. Temperatures topping out at 70, evenings down to 40 or so. Winter is the exception. It is the season we count on. Short days, long languorous nights, heavy snow cover. Cold that makes even houses creak. We measure the year by the depth of the snow, by the muscularity of storms.

This year, the year of the great California El Niño, the sun of course inched along the western horizon until it hit its southern stop point. But nothing else has been the same. Our thermometer hovers around the 20-degree mark, 20 above zero that is. A few early snowfalls bolstered by a few subsequent flurries still manage to cling to the ground in spite of many days when the temperature inched to 40 degrees -- above zero. But there are no enduring drifts. No plow humps to shoot over when exiting the driveway. My snowshoes hang grimly on the outside wall. I've used them only 3 times.

When it does snow, the flakes are thin and meager and do not hold. It even gets fairly cold now and then, a few degrees below zero. But this winter is ruined for good. The sun is marching north. The riotous colors of seed catalogues scream in the mailbox. The flocks of winter birds that usually crowd our window feeders to sup on single entree black sunflower seeds this year stay down in the far gardens, indulging themselves instead in the buffet of weed seeds that still stand high above the snow. They are already, I think, planning their spring migrations.

Even if we have blizzards and get snowed in, it is too late to settle into a long hibernation of soul with its companion absence of desire. We'll have to struggle through the careless bloomings of spring and the vagaries of summer and fall, with only the memory of long past winters to feed on. And as we do when experience fails us, we'll rely on faith to feed our anticipation of dark, robust, restorative winters sure to come.

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: Susan Carol Hauser is author of Sugartime: The Hidden Pleasures of Making Maple Syrup. She comes to us from member station KBBI in Bemidji, Minnesota.



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