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Graphic: Andrew Mazariegos-Ovalle/The Olaf Messenger

When I tell people that I love the cold weather, I’m just about guaranteed to get one of two replies. “You’re crazy!” most exclaim, shaking their heads. They ask if I can feel the wind chill, if I’ve heard about the following day’s forecasted low temperature, and why the bare, frost-covered landscape doesn’t make me feel a certain kind of gloominess inside. “You get it!” the others — a smaller group — cheer, raising their mittened hands to smack me five as our cheeks grow rosy from smiling. 

These words are, in part, a love letter to the late stages of Minnesota fall: to the golden sunshine that streams through the bare branches, the excited chatter that crescendos around the first snowfall, and the simple joy of watching your breath dance forth in delicate, pillowy puffs. They’re dedicated to the joy of huddling with friends in the stands of a hockey game, the enveloping comfort of your coziest blanket, and the rich, wafting harmony of caramel, chocolate, and slightly-burnt espresso. It’s easy to dote on the sleepy, indigo-skied St. Olaf campus on a chilly morning as, one by one, glowing lights blink on in defiance of the dark and coat-clad students shuffle towards something warm to eat. There’s something about the cold air itself that feels invigorating and life-giving. I’m convinced that whoever came up with the saying “a breath of fresh air” had a November day in Northfield in mind.

The transition from fall to winter is a special metamorphosis that we have a lot to learn from. It’s a reminder to embrace change and to discover new ways to keep yourself warm. Amidst the tumbling leaves and the introduction of a softer, muted color palette, the changing landscape affirms that it’s both OK and incredibly healing to redefine the parts of ourselves that no longer serve us. It nudges us towards reassessing our relationship with the identities we take on and the practices we engage in every day. Towards setting new boundaries, letting go of expectations, and leaning into what gives us feelings of joy and purpose. Through tough love and the occasional set of numb ears, fingers, and toes, the cold weather reminds us just how important it is to show up for ourselves and prioritize self-care. 

Dear reader, you don’t have to love the cold weather. You’re allowed to curse the wind chill, frown at the falling snow, and burn your tongue on an overpriced, seasonal latte. If the bare, frost-covered landscape makes you feel a certain kind of gloominess inside, you’re more than allowed to wallow in it. In fact, you should wallow in it, because your gloominess, burnt tongues, frowns, and opinions about the weather are just tiles in the mosaic that make you a complex and beautiful human being. These words are a love letter to you, too, in all of your metamorphoses.

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