I have had a wretched winter so far with a relentless sinus infection that has fed me a steady diet of postnasal drip and a cough that won’t quit. One day after a particularly violent coughing spell I made the statement that I had exercised more muscles than an Olympic mogul skiing champion.
This set my mind in motion and I realized how many ways living through a Maine winter is similar to participating in athletic events like the winter Olympics.
Here is a sample of the Maine winter games.
Shoveling: The most challenging event in the shoveling competition occurs when you get home from work and there is no power, not a glimmer of moonlight, and a fresh eighteen inch blanket of heavy snow. This is when you rummage through your junk drawer until you find a headlamp. If you are lucky enough to have batteries you change them by candlelight, praying you placed the pluses and minuses in the right direction. You shovel for the next four hours, limited only by lower back pain and the fogging of your glasses.
Falling on the ice: Since humiliating falls on the ice never happen in isolation, why not have witnesses analyze your elements for an Olympic score? I once approached a patch of ice at a high rate of speed, did an open double axel followed by a flip, and scored an extra point for nailing the landing with a perfect face plant.
Ice scraping: When it is quitting time at my office you see lethargic workers spring into action as they approach their cars with ice scrapers and determination. The sound of scraper blades on windshields is deafening and everyone hopes to cross the finish line first. Consider yourself disqualified if you use a remote car starter to defrost, or you only scrape two spots corresponding to the size and location of your eyeballs.
Speed dressing: Awakening on below zero mornings, it is difficult to emerge from your toasty LL Bean comforter to plunk your feet on the surface of a glacier. When you have perfected the art of speed dressing, however, you can stay in bed until the last possible moment, dressing in record time with nary a goosebump.
Roof raking: Patrick and I have ‘his’ and ‘hers’ roof rakes and spend hours with these 12 foot spades pulling heavy snow from the roof back to the earth where it belongs. Between our wheezes, you hear repeated thuds and an occasional expletive, as we remove the snow one slice at a time. When we’ve completed our task, we return to the previously shoveled deck and front steps to remove the compacted snow, which is akin to shoveling cement. With our last ounce of strength, we give ourselves a high-five, then collapse secure in the knowledge that our roof will not.
Burning wood: This is a summer and winter competition as black fly season is prime time to cut, split and stack wood. Once cold months arrive you get to handle the wood several more times as you trudge to the woodpile, fill the wood box, carry to the stove, and shove it into the inferno. Periodically you clean out the ashes with live coals and carry them outside like an Olympic torch to your compost pile or that persistent patch of ice where you won a medal for falling (see above).
Juicing: With all these strenuous activities you know someone will try to get an edge by using enhancements. My drug of choice is a Vick’s nasal inhaler, which works almost as good as a nose strip to help me inhale frigid air without obstruction.
Of course, there are other winter games Mainers enjoy like ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, skating, and sliding.
I love to slide and as a kid, one of my favorite activities was to hurl myself down the steep bank behind Dad’s barn on my steel saucer sled. Maybe that’s why this is one of my favorite scenes from the movie Christmas Vacation.
What are your favorite winter games? I’m sure my list is only the tip of the iceberg.