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Weathering perspectives

As anyone who has spent an appreciable amount of time in our region can attest, living here can be a bit challenging, particularly during the winter months. As I write this, several inches of snow is falling on a healthy layer of ice, and an arctic blast of cold air is on the way, accompanied by high winds. Our dog has been tugging on a frozen chew-toy for two days, and I am contemplating the installation of GPS locators on the kids sleds. When faced with the day-to-day challenges that life likes to throw our way, I try very hard to keep things in perspective. This is not always easy, and at times, the perspective can lead in equally challenging (or frustrating) directions. Take the weather for example; Ill have to admit that its been a bit pre-occupying lately. Between the relentless onslaught of ice storms, wind gusts that send anything not frozen to the ground flying across the yard, and the endless anticipation of school delays and harrowing commutes to work, the past few weeks have been quite exciting, to say the least. It was in the midst of all this a couple of weeks ago that I stumbled across an interesting historical footnote while researching an article about Minerva. Around the time of Minervas founding, and into the early 20th century, a man was apparently considered improvident if he did not have an adequate store of food and supplies, prior to the first winter storms arriving. During the winter, critical supplies were brought in by snowshoe, or not at all. Horse and sled travel was sporadic, especially through areas of heavy drifting. Local residents were appointed by the Town Road Commissioner to keep a pre-determined section of highway clear for the mail to pass through. This last part made me pause, and I had to read it a few times to let it sink in. Yes, before the invention of the horse-drawn snowplow, they actually used to shovel the highways by hand. Ebenezer Emmons is credited with naming the Adirondacks in 1838. Emmons was a renowned geologist who studied the lands and forests from North Carolina as far north as the Canadian border, including the entirety of New York State. His choice of the word Adirondack is significant, and I wonder if Mr. Emmons chuckled a bit as he wrote it for the first time. You see, the Adirondack Mountains were considered uninhabitable during the winter by the Native American tribes who populated upstate New York. This sentiment was so strong, that the word Adirondack is a translation of a Mohawk word meaning they eat bark, a derogatory term applied to their Algonquian neighbors to the North. When an unlucky group of Algonquians would find themselves stranded in the Adirondacks during a winter storm, they would resort to eating the inner bark of the White Pine tree to survive. While I have never been faced with eating pine bark, or shoveling the highway in front of my home, I have to say that the thought of it puts the relative inconvenience of what we experience today into crisp focus. In my view, we are guests in this region, so we will have to forgive our host if we do not always feel welcome. I do not take it personally, although it can feel quite personal at times. We make the best of the weather we can, and enjoy as much as possible while coping with the hardships we face. The trick is to remember why we are here, and to nurture the resilience necessary to make it through whatever challenges come our way. In reality, it will not be long before we are eyeing the air conditioner and swatting blackflies.

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