The winds of winter art not so unkind …

As a native Californian, I usually take a lot of heat about the weather this time of year from my friends back home. I get a lot of sympathy cards and phone calls from friends and family who can’t imagine what a wind chill feels like.
My friend Lena, especially, is good at teasing me about the temperature differential between Minneapolis and Southern California.
“It was so hot today, it was like 80 degrees,” she’ll tell me in January. Usually, I grit my teeth and ignore her.
But in a strange twist of character, the last time Lena called, she didn’t tease me about the weather but asked if she could come and visit — in February.
As I picked her up from the airport last weekend, I wondered why she had a sudden change of attitude. I am sure Lena’s visit was more than a yearning for my companionship. Lena hadn’t seen snow fall until she was 15 years old (and actually, I think I was 15, too). She thinks its cold when its 50 degrees and raining.
In the few days that she was here, I think we both learned ways to enjoy the cold together. We went shopping, drank hot cocoa and she went to her first hockey game.
It seems that Lena did not want to experience arctic cold, but she was looking to be refreshed. Although some of us here in cold country find winter to be dull, brutal and uninspiring, it was refreshing to know that even life in sunny California needs a little inspiration. I’m sure she found what she was looking for in just a weekend visit to a new place.
It was as if we had both taken a vacation during her visit. She had peeked at a different way of life and I had been reminded of how my life had changed.
I suspect Lena came to Minnesota for the same reasons I did last year. It’s the same reason many of us come to the University. It’s why we seek to meet people unlike ourselves. It’s why we explore new places. Inspiration.
As someone who grew up with little distinction between seasons, I find winter very inspiring. I’ve grown to love the feelings associated with winter that only the natives here know. I love that I walk to class while snow flakes float down on my face from the sky. I love discovering that there are a million different kinds of snow. Snow falls in big chunks and little wisps; it can poke you in the face like little darts or lightly dust your hair.
I love how snow quiets the noisy freeways and changes black dirt to white. During my first snowfall, I realized that snow cleans up the city, if only momentarily. Los Angeles sure could use a virgin white snow blanket.
I like how “Bedford Falls” snow makes me warm, and snow mixed with sunshine makes me squint. I love harmless snowball fights and how snow dances around street lights.
During my first winter, I remember giggling to myself the entire way walking to class — reveling in the little detergent-like balls of snow that bounced off my jacket. Who knew it could be this fun?
The other day I listened to an artist on National Public Radio talk about how it was hard to be inspired in the winter months. The scenery was monotonous; he said he got depressed often.
Sure the cloudy, gloomy days get their fair share of the season. But maybe the artist needed a change of scenery. He needed to drive a new way home from work or have lunch in a part of town he seldom frequents. Part of being inspired is searching for ways to break the monotony.
Maybe if you live in Minnesota year after year, you lose a sense of pleasure in winter.
During my introductory ‘gauntlet’ winter last year, I wanted to spend every living moment indoors, eating anything hot. But a day-to-day routine like this quickly becomes boring. Now I try to get outside; let the cold wake me up. I want to get more creative, not less inspired.
A source of inspiration needn’t come from taking a vacation or visiting a new place. It’s about satisfying a curiosity or meeting someone new.
Late one night a few weeks ago, my roommate dragged me to Target while I was supposed to be cramming for an exam. At the checkout, my shoulders began to sag and I leaned my body against the register stand while thinking about theories of advertising. I was just about to get impatient with the cashier when I stopped and looked at the woman’s face closely. She looked even more tired than I, her eyes droopy and her movements sloppy.
“How’s it going?” I asked. She sighed and said, “I’ve been working since 6 a.m. and I’ve got to get to my other job early tomorrow morning.” We ended up talking about working multiple jobs and the exhausting hours of the day.
As I picked up my bag, I smiled at her and told her to take it easy. She smiled back and, for an instant, I saw relief in her face.
That day I was inspired by the Target cashier. She worked harder at life than I did. She probably didn’t even have the luxury to sit and think about advertising theories.
I guess everyone seeks to be inspired in different ways. You can fly halfway across the country or ride the bus to work, or even sit down and have a conversation with a stranger. Like junk, certainly one person’s monotony can serve as another’s breath of fresh air. The tough part is finding the inspiration in your own monotony.
Sara Goo is a copy editor at The Minnesota Daily.