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Thawing Toward Spring

The Southwest Dad watches winter go down the drain.

It hasn’t exactly been neighborhood stroll weather, to say the least, for what seems like a very long time. But on a recent day when the temperature called for sweatshirts and winter coats, Max and I ventured forth for a walk around the block.

Winter changes the landscape around here like nothing else. Wide, tree-lined streets become crabbed mazes where two cars can barely pass at the same time. Once-straight sidewalks become treacherous minefields of ice, slush, and occasional animal waste that thread between waist-high snow banks. And there were entire weeks this past winter when Max literally could not see over our yard.

All that’s changing now. As it does, mercifully, every year. There are still snow banks, of course, but the ends of the driveways have fully melted. Where once there was indestructible, tread-marked gray ice, had become a small stream flowing between the two persistent glaciers that bookend the gap. Max, always fascinated in science, wanted to follow these tiny rivers indefinitely to see where they led. He probably would have tried to crawl into the water-eroded gaps under the snow if I’d have let him.

When you have a kid in Minnesota, sometimes winter settles over the yard like a tablecloth over a dinner that hasn’t yet been completely cleared away. When the linen gets yanked away three or four months later, what is revealed underneath can be shocking. Our yards have seen the passive exhumation of any number of toys that didn’t quite make it into the house or the garage before that first big winter storm, and have been hibernating under the snow ever since. We learned that the Christmas wreaths we put out by the curb weren’t taken away, like we’d assumed; they were just covered up. And back in early December I dropped an unopened soda can on the deck which reappeared last week, now in the shape of a large cold capsule.

Max and I continued around the block and followed the babbling runoff down the next street over to the corner, until we got to the storm drain, where heat rising from the tunnels under the street had carved out a kind of natural snow-fort from beneath. He stayed there fascinated, experimenting with chunks of snow to see how quickly different sizes melted when he tossed them on the dry sidewalk, the wet street, or the surprisingly busy torrent in the gutter. I explained how all the water gushing down the street and into that drain was flowing straight to Lake Harriet (at least that’s what it says on the curb, when you can see the curb), much like we’ll be able to go to the beach in a few months when we don’t have to make frozen crunching noises with our feet every time we leave the house.

Anyone who stays here year-round knows about the two Southwests that take turns existing. We’ve enjoyed the one that’s been here, but as the formerly towering curb-glaciers dwindle to gray, mottled dirtbergs, we’re looking forward to the other one even more.

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