Where the Land Meets the Sky

Etienne White

A Midwest winter can be likened to childbirth: something that when you’re in the throes of it you deeply regret ever signing up to do, that makes you question your sanity and life choices, that is a tremendous physical pain to endure, that can, if you’re not careful, also kill you. The memory of this horror fades fast, just as soon as the lush spring, and then warmer summer breezes arrive. Just like the gurgling, smiling baby in your arms, summer will lull you into believing winter was “not that bad,” and “heck, yes” of course you’d go through all that again, because of what you get on the other side, and so, “sure, why not?,” you unexpectedly find yourself agreeing to have ANOTHER Midwest winter.

I grew up in a much more temperate climate. (London, I am reliably told, can be likened to Seattle; just without the good coffee, cool hippies and proximity to mountains.) I am still not at all used to the way Wisconsin’s temperatures can plummet and fall so fast. The summer heat is something I have embraced; I even love the humid nights when a cool waft of air is a relief you’d beg for. I have almost learned to tolerate the mosquitoes.

So, here we are in November, hoping it will be a mild month and bracing ourselves for the months to come. For the next short while, though, we have the distractions of The Holidays to take our minds off the cold. After all, doesn’t everyone want a White Christmahanukwanzakah? After this, though, we must somehow make it through to March/April time. For me, hope is always found when the spring sap starts rising. Until that day arrives, what’s to be done?

The last three months of the year are jam-packed full of holidays and celebrations, but the first three months experience a steep dropoff, with nothing of note until spring. Why is that? Whoever created such a calendar for us to observe had obviously not lived through a Midwest winter.

This has already been such a strange, and in many ways, sad year, and so we, in our little pandemic pod (two families who have agreed to get through “it all” together), have decided to create some new holidays to get us through this coming winter. We are learning about a different country each month and celebrating it with a big meal based on that country’s cuisine and culture. It is a wonderful learning exercise for children and adults alike. So far, we have been to Algeria and back. This winter we will also be traveling farther afield to places such as Italy, Greece, India and China all while sitting at our trusty farmhouse tables. And what is more, these trips come with a guarantee of no jet lag, no travel expenses and no airport delays. What are your plans to make it through this coming cold season? Which new holidays might you give birth to?

Etienne White lives where the land meets the sky on a farm in Iowa County where she raises grass-fed, Old English Babydoll sheep, as well as pastured chickens, a happy farm dog, a wily barn cat and her two spirited children. She works at the intersection of marketing and sustainability, leading efforts to create mass consumer behavior change, for the greater good of both people and planet.