I’m visiting the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for my brother’s college graduation.

For those of you who don’t know, that’s the bit of Michigan that’s only connected to the rest of the state by water.  From a geological standpoint, it’s Wisconsin.  Of course, from a geological standpoint, Wisconsin doesn’t exist.  Nevermind – technicality.  Moving on.

Point is: Houghton, Michigan, where I’m staying, is jammed up into the Great Lakes so far it takes a proctologist to find it.  Its one of the far ends of the continental United States.  Nothing but water on three sides.

It’s winter nine months out of the year here.  This is the place that invented professional hockey.  They get snow like you wouldn’t believe.  There’s this little thing called ‘lake effect,’ which means they’ve seen seven and a half feet of the cold, white stuff this year alone.  They don’t know what snowplows are, because they only use bulldozers.

It’s another world up here.  Snow don’t just build up on the branches of trees – it builds on the trunks, so an entire tree, top to bottom, will be white.  Shoveling happens on an hourly basis and you have to brush your car every time you go outside.

I like it though.  I think it makes people more sensible.  Cold weather is pretty dangerous, even up here, where they deal with it all year.  The roads perpetually slick, you can get buried in snow, fall through ice, get impaled by falling icicles, or die from exposure.  While, on one hand, living in an environment can make you cavalier about it, it also makes you think, “Is this a good idea?  I mean, really?”  Lots of other problems are played down because of the weather.  It’s easy to think about impact of coal emissions on the environment in warm and sunny California, but out here you’ll burn anything if it means you can stay warm.

Oh, coincidentally, forget solar power.  I’ve been here almost a week and seen the sun exactly once, which is apparently remarkably frequent for December.

It’s beautiful though.  Snow sparkles in the light and it muffles all sound.  Waterfalls freeze into fantastic ice sculptures and icicles trim houses in glass.  I don’t think I’d mind living up here for a few years.

But I am going to appreciate it when I get home and my shoelaces unfreeze.


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