The Tao of Winter Survival

As the White House is giving up George W. Bush and taking in Barack Obama, so Minnesota is losing its beautiful color wheel of leaves, and welcoming the bitter cold winter. While closing my storm windows, and putting an extra fleece blanket on my bed, I decided that this year, I am going to embrace the season, rather than dread it like I usually do.

To find inspiration for braving the winter, I looked to the ancient Eastern thinkers: the men whose names are hard to pronounce, but whose ideas are simple; the men who preach that just by being, one is succeeding.

This is a winter survival guide for all the brave souls who call this frozen tundra home.

“Tao” loosely is translated as “the way,” which is different from person to person. It has a naturalistic ethos whereby one must not go against nature, but allow it to take its course.

GLBT persons choose to pride themselves on the natural being, and, therefore, find happiness in the existence, just as Minnesotans endure subzero temperatures in order to enjoy the beauty of spring. After all, spring would just be a time of year if winter didn’t precede it.

With my new attempt at enjoying winter this year, I’ve decided to look for contentment in simple activities like writing, crocheting, and reading. Instead of worrying about things that won’t change, I’m going to appreciate that winter comes every year, and find happiness in simplicity.

An essential concept of Taoism is embracing what one already has, and in our case, it’s winter. Take advantage of the cold by going snow tubing, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing.

Snow tube chutes at Buck Hill open as soon as the cold weather becomes constant, along with Powder Ridge in Kimball, Columbia Golf Course in Northeast Minneapolis, and Green Acres Recreation in Lake Elmo. Each facility is open to the public, and has runs for snow tubers.

Ashley Jung, preschool teacher at the Jeremiah Program in Minneapolis, enjoys winter because it’s a natural source of entertainment for her kids.

“They love to build things, go sledding, and make snow angels,” Jung says. “Playing in the snow requires a lot of energy, so the kids are spent by nap time.”

While flying kites commonly is associated with playing in the crisp fall air, the annual Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival takes place in January on the lake. It consists of a number of winter activities, along with the bizarre act of winter kite flying. Although watching a kite blow in the bitter wind might not be number-one on most people’s list, it’s a way of not cutting back activities because of less-than-desirable conditions.

Some creativity and inspiration can go a long way during the winter. Taoists believe that the simpler the mind, the wiser the person. Instead of scrambling to find other places to go to get your mind off winter, hosting small events in the comfort of your home can be equally rewarding.

If you have artsy friends, organize a gallery at home showcasing their photography, painting, music, and poetry. The time it takes to prepare your work, whether it is a short story or a collection of knits, will keep your mind off the cold and on the upcoming events.

Jesse Siegel, a local artist whose work is a mystical representation of the living world, enjoys the diversity of his friends’ artwork. He facilitates the YouthLink OUT! Group, and is a constant participant in local events. He relates that he would find happiness in sharing his work with friends, while enjoying their work as well.

Not into art? Try hosting a poker night. Molly Walsh, sales associate at Mastel’s Health Foods in St. Paul, does so on a monthly basis. Her favorite thing is an excuse to play the game.

“I see poker as a raw game full of emotions that you are not supposed to express,” Walsh remarks. “It’s also a fun, cheap way to hang out with my friends.”

Whether it’s playing in the snow or escaping to a pool that helps you make it through this season, keep in mind that winter is here for a while, like it or not. To find contentment in the simple things is to discover the Tao of winter survival.

After all, as Taoism founding father Lao Tzu says, “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

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