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Winter came early this year to Minnesota. 13 days ago the ground was brown and dry, the sun was out and the corn was still waiting to be harvested…..and the next everything was blindingly white, the horizon grey with snow-filled clouds and the memory of dry ground keeps growing more distant with each glance out the window. Consequently, the last 12 days have been punctuated by putting on ski boots, grabbing poles and cross country skis and walking out the front door up the path through the woods to the hay field — the lake where I do most of my Nordic skiing isn’t quite frozen enough to trust yet. It takes 6-7 minutes to ski one loop depending on the temperature and the glide provided by the conditions, and going around four times makes for a decent workout. If you are going to live in a place that has potentially nine months of snow covered ground, I’ve found it works best to embrace it.

Skiing these loops has been an opportunity to notice the stillness of the snow – the way it shimmers like little jewels in the bright sun and keeps record of other creatures that went the same way. It has been time to watch the sun come up in a tangerine haze and to see it sink behind the trees at dusk, covering the lake and fields in pink shadows at the close of the day. It has been time to focus on movement and feeling alive, time to notice the birds and how the brittle cattails stir in the westerly breeze. It has been time for being outside of time. Time just for just being.

I am grateful for these past 12 days because the conditions were just right to give good glide and good kick for skiing, which is rare this early in the season. I am grateful for these 12 days because they provided space for a kind of moving meditation that is only possible by gliding over snow via my body’s own power. I am grateful for these 12 days because feeling the newly cold air pierce my skin as the wind blows snaps me out of worry and into the present. I am grateful for these 12 days because they have reminded me why I choose live where I do and that even when things don’t as I might prefer and the days get rough around the edges, the beauty of a sunrise over frozen water or the shriek of a hawk circling overhead helps bring things back into focus.

I won’t ski today because it’s raining, the snow is gone, and the deep tracks of a few days ago are just an icy memory as the temperature drops again. I will miss skiing the loop until it snows again, but I am grateful for the moisture. I am grateful for the patterns that the puddles make on the lake, and for the new ice that is already forming. I am grateful for a day to rest and the opportunity to notice the beauty of the earth in another way. I don’t know what the next 12 days will bring, but whatever comes, I do know that the sun will keep rising, I will keep living in the present, and I will be grateful for the opportunity to be. I’m sure there will be more ski tracks to embrace before too long anyway. After all, I live in Minnesota and winter has just begun.

Heidi Barr

Heidi Barr

Heidi Barr is the author of 12 Tiny Things: Simple Ways to Live a More Intentional Life (due out in January 2021) as well as four other works of non-fiction. A commitment to cultivating ways of being that are life-giving and sustainable for people, communities and the planet provides the foundation for her work. She lives in Minnesota with her family where they tend a large vegetable garden, explore nature and do their best to live simply. Despite working for an app-based tech start up, she plans to put off getting a smartphone as long as possible. Learn more about her work at