About this time of year, people in the Upper Midwest are wishing we were in Florida, Arizona, California or Mexico. The snow and cold get old.
But there's a beauty to the snow and cold. Last week my friend Steve, who lives in Florida, finally came to Minnesota. Steve and I went to junior high school together in Pennsylvania. He's lived mostly in the sunny climates of California and Florida. I've become a Minnesotan.
I've been trying to get him here for years; he always laughed when I told him how beautiful it is. "It's cold!" he'd say.
Last week when, to my eyes, the snow had gotten dirty and the cold was bone-chilling, Steve finally came to Minnesota for his nephew's wedding. When I picked him up at his hotel, the first words out of his mouth were, "It's beautiful! This is really beautiful!"
We drove to the Dunn Brothers in downtown Chaska for a cup of coffee. "Wow, this is really neat," he said. "We don't have anything like this in Florida. This is a real town." After an hour of catching up over coffee, he asked if we could walk down to the river. We walked the few blocks to the river and along the path that runs along the top of the levy in front of the townhomes.
It's a beautiful scene of the Minnesota River. I was freezing up there, but Steve shot pictures, as excited as I would be snapping pictures of sea turtles spawning on a warm beach in Florida.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Steve was beholding it. I was not -- until I got home and saw the picture Steve had posted on Facebook, and the comment posted by someone who hadn't been chilled to the bone on the riverbank. "That's beautiful!" she wrote. "It's so perfect it doesn't even look real."
And I realized: It is beautiful, and it is real. Just like the real downtown and the old corner coffee shop where strangers get to know each other by name -- a real place to warm ourselves while we complain about the winter weather over a cup of coffee.
About the middle of January I'll forget how beautiful it is here in Minnesota. I might spend a few days at Steve's condo in Florida just to get warm, and to realize again what we have here that Steve doesn't have there.
In the meantime, when the snow and cold get old, I'll look at the Currier and Ives picture Steve put up on Facebook to remind myself of the beauty I take for granted in the Land of 10,000 (frozen) Lakes.
Gordon C. Stewart is pastor of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska and moderator of First Tuesday Dialogues: examining critical public issues locally and globally. He is a source in MPR's Public Insight Network.