The joyful annoyances of a winter thaw

PHOTO: Severi Karevesi, Flickr CC

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Winter is not over. I hold no illusions about that. On social media, people post scenes from some tropical vacation, each escaping the long gestation of the elusive Northern Minnesota spring.

But we’ve got a winter thaw this week. The skies shine platinum and it’s probably not safe to keep mayonnaise in your car anymore. That’s a big deal for those of us who don’t flee South like big dumb babies.

A winter thaw means certain special events begin happening, slowly at first and then all at once.

The birds get busy. No, not in the euphemistic way, though possibly. (Bird sex is not my area). I mean that you start hearing birds. The woodpeckers pick at the trees and the wee chickadees sing their cute little song.

Birdsong makes for a nice soundtrack to having your head chopped off by a sheet of ice as it melts off the roof of your garage. Just kidding. This aerial assault won’t kill you. It will just knock you into a slush pile full of dog doo.

Oh, the dog doo isn’t frozen anymore. Might need to do something about that.

Meanwhile, inside the garage, your car just lost control of its bowels and dropped six weeks worth of ice and snow from its undercarriage. It’s a mess, but now your car won’t shimmy like Apollo 13. Turns out the radio wasn’t broken after all.

The wee chickadees repeat their cute little song.

In town, crews correct all the snow removal errors of the past three months. That snow pile that obscures a stop sign? Gone. Just watch out for all the old fenders and glass. Meanwhile, you get your daily allowance of sodium just walking across the sidewalk salt outside work.

Deer go on the move. They’re hungry now and can smell again. And they love the Tex-Mex flavor blast of the Super Bowl black bean and corn salsa on top of the compost pile.

The wee chickadees repeat their stupid little song.

In the depths of winter, you need three coats all at the same time. But during a winter thaw you need coats for three different temperatures, all of which will happen today. You change more often than a Barbie doll at a sleepover. Take solace, however. Your keys are in the other one.

On the same topic, the children will begin to play outside without their scarves, gloves and winter hats. Oh, they’ll wear them outside, but leave them in a mud puddle 27 miles away from wherever you are the next time it gets cold. Don’t worry. The stores don’t have any left.

The flying rat chickadees repeat their stupid little song.

But it’s all worth it. The sun, just weeks ago a cold distant lamp suspended low on the horizon, grows stronger. Sunlight restores our humanity. Smiles return to the faces of loved ones long ago mistaken for furniture.

The dark fingers of winter trees gain mystical sheens of reds and yellows. A life that had seemed static, trapped in our living rooms and offices, starts in motion again.

In fact, you will feel better and better each day, right up until precisely the moment you hear about the winter storm warning. But by then it will be too late for winter. The thaw gives us just enough to get through.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.



  1. So true , Aaron. Your observations really made me chuckle.

  2. Great piece, Aaron. It catches all the nuances of living here in mid-February.

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