This might be sacrilege for any Minnesotan to admit, but I’m going to say it.
I’m an indoorsman.
To anyone who knows me, that’s hardly news. But what might be surprising to some is that I spent a considerable part of my youth participating in outdoor activities. I grew up in Central Wisconsin where fishing, four-wheeling and exploring the woods were inevitable and inescapable fair-weather activities. And in wintertime, like all the kids in my neighborhood, I learned how to layer before heading out onto the frozen tundra of my backyard to build ice castles and snow forts that possessed little to no structural integrity (an unhandyman in training!).
Even as a young adult I found myself outdoors more often than I’d like to admit. The reason? The college I attended is nestled amid a range of bluffs within the Mississippi River Valley, and for a few semesters I occasionally dated a socially conscious earth muffin who was into all that outdoorsy bullshit. So naturally I pretended I knew the ins and outs of nature while we were hiking in the hills and taking hand-in-hand strolls along the creeks –presuming there would be warmer activities taking place indoors afterwards.
Today, as a reluctant grown-up, I can even begrudgingly admit that some of my region’s natural, scenic landscapes truly are breathtaking. But my shortness of breath is mostly because of the frigid temperatures that frame Minnesota’s four seasons: Nearly Winter, Winter, Still Winter and Road Construction.
As much as I’d appreciate clarity on why millions (including myself) choose to live in such a cold climate, I’d really rather gain some insight into perhaps the single most patently absurd and bizarre outdoor activity known to man.
The only thing that perplexes me more than shivering inside an ice shack while staring down a hole in the ice (hoping a fish might tug at your line) is parking a two-ton pickup truck on that temporarily frozen lake. I know . . . I know. I can hear the adults chastising me already with, “If you check the ice frequently and observe local climate conditions, a variety of ice activities can be very safe!” But I’ve got a better idea that virtually guarantees your ice safety at all times:
Stay the hell off of frozen lakes!
If more people heeded this advice, we’d have fewer vehicles resting on the bottoms of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Yet every spring, I shake my head while watching television news reports of trucks sinking through the ice and interviews with dismayed ice fishermen who seem genuinely surprised at their misfortune. These predictable events typically prompt the following annual exchange between me and a few of my friends. Can you tell who is who?
Rational Indoorsman: “He parked his pickup on a lake!”
Outdoor Apologist: “Don’t be too hard on the guy. Yesterday that part of the lake had ten inches of new, clear ice.”
Rational Indoorsman: “But he parked his pickup on a lake!”
So what’s the cold reality behind my outdoor aversion? In a word . . . climate. The Midwest’s weather and habitat are the most frequent deterrents to any enjoyment I might otherwise glean from the great outdoors. I’d be willing to bet I could become an avid outdoors enthusiast if my nearby natural setting were a sandy beach along a roaring ocean with daytime temperatures that rarely dip below sixty degrees. I’d be the first one out the door each morning for a jog down the beach and the last one inside at night after searching the sands for seashells or ocean life.
Instead, I live in a locale where you have to go inside ice rinks to warm up during the winter, and where the children spend the summers exploring mosquito-breeding ponds in search of frogs and salamanders. Many have told me I live in God’s Country, and that I should embrace my surroundings. “Love it or leave it!” they say, (and these are my friends). I’m sincerely glad my neighbors’ rose-colored glasses provide them with this positive perspective, and I readily admit to being a weather wimp.
But they can have these steely blue waters and towering pine trees any day of the week. Just give me four walls, a roof and a thermostat please. You can even throw in a large picture window from which I can comfortably observe nature in all its wonder. Because for me, the outdoors is where the deer and the antelope play – and that sounds to me like the perfect setting for contracting Lyme disease.
And the indoors? Well, it’s cleaner, it’s warmer and it just plain smells better in here too.