Gettin’ Ready

The southern comedian was raving about how nice Minnesota is.

“But,” he said, “the thing I don’t understand is that you’re always gettin’ ready for somethin’. If it’s spring, you’re gettin’ ready for summer. If it’s summer, you’re gettin’ ready for fall. If it’s fall, you’re gettin’ ready for winter. And if it’s winter, you’re gettin’ ready for spring. You never stop getting’ ready for somethin’.”

Well, yes, that’s us. What else would we do if we didn’t have to constantly be getting ready for something? We need to be diligent about it, too, or we might not be ready for those three perfect days randomly hidden in each season. Also, in our climate, if we aren’t ready we could die.

So, why do we live here? We say it’s because of the changing seasons. But it’s really because we like getting ready. That’s what we do. Yes, we cherish those fresh spring days, warm summer nights, crisp autumn sunsets, and snowy winter mornings. And we strive to be prepared for them so when they suddenly appear, we can enjoy them, knowing that we’ll be ready.

It might be 60 degrees and sunny on November 20th and a nice day for a walk or drive but, you know, maybe it would be better to get the snow blower ready. Then maybe rake the bad areas just one last time. We can use this to complain that we never have time for anything.

Stores remind us to keep getting ready. Actual weather or the calendar is less important. If you need a new winter coat in February, you might be out of luck. Spring attire has taken over and gardening supplies are on display. Want a new pair of dress shorts in August? Good luck. But you can get first pick at the fall jackets.

Fall is our biggest challenge because preparing for winter consumes nearly all of it. Farmers sit in anguish waiting for the rain to stop and the corn to dry enough to combine in their annual race against the first snowstorm. Outdoor construction suddenly moves a lot quicker. The leaves die and the gardens freeze, and that unmistakable smell of rotting vegetation reminds us not to waste a minute.

Getting the cars ready for winter was my Dad’s greatest achievement each year. He’d change the oil, oil filter, air filter, spark plugs, points, and antifreeze – just short of an overhaul, it seemed. He’d swap the summer tires for the snow tires stored overhead in the garage. By November, he’d start using windshield washer fluid that had antifreeze in it instead of using tap water. The ice scraper was put in the trunk. If there was time, the car was washed and waxed.

I had a house that was designed to be maintained by a crew of indentured servants. It had 26 storm windows to clean and mount each fall, then remove each spring. I did it alone until I wised up and had combination windows installed. Drain the hoses and put them inside. Then shut off the outside water. Why does water have to expand when it freezes? Darn physics.

We can’t just pencil in October 15 as the day we do our raking each year. Who doesn’t have at least one tree that refuses to give up its leaves until after the first snowfall? One fall, back when the city still picked up our leaves, we waited until all the leaves were down, then raced to get them hauled to the boulevard before an imminent snowstorm. We raked into the night with every light turned on. We proudly finished and the leaves sat on the boulevard until the next spring, covered by a mountain of snow and starting to form a peat bog.

Spring is the season of optimism, when you can open windows and smell dirt once again. Your house finally gets to exhale. It’s also when you can put everything back outside wearing a sweatshirt. When you put your deck furniture out, start using it or you’ll be putting it away again before you even sit in it.

Summer is less risky. We might sweat while working outside but at least we aren’t wearing 20 pounds of outerwear. If you are intent on painting the house or building a deck, get busy or the ground will be white before you wet a brush or pound a nail. And if you have a cabin, you can now begin the weekend treks there to mow and clean and then come home.

Winter is often the easiest season because we can’t do much outside work. We’ve either gotten ready for winter or we haven’t. If the windows didn’t get cleaned, well, there’s nothing that can be done about it now. Inside projects can be worked on as long as they don’t involve deadly fumes. Big snowstorms are secretly prayed for because they provide the perfect excuse to stay inside and do nothing productive. And no one will blame us because they’re all doing the same thing. Shoveling can wait until the snow stops.

Winter is when we overbook next summer with promised weekend get-togethers because, right then, the summer calendar looks wide open. We forget that there are only 12 weekends in the summer. Several will already be consumed by holidays and obligatory family events. And no thought is given to allowing time for summer projects. That list has been misplaced.

So, yes, we’re always getting ready. It’s instinctive. It’s in our DNA. That’s why we live here.

Are you getting’ ready?

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