Winter’s Intellectual Blizzard

Today the snow came to Minnesota.  The neighborhood is full of people with shovels, snow blowers, and other winter apparatus who must clear the snow from roads, driveways, and sidewalks.  The first snow is usually welcomed; it virtually guarantees a “White Christmas” and serves as a beautiful sound insulator.  A meteorological calmness settles in.  Outside activities, while enjoyed by many people, keep most of us inside for most of the time.  With the change in daylight savings time, it gets dark very early and the days grow shorter and colder.  We northerners are “cooped up” inside for several months.

We can watch television for five months, hang out in bars, or we can turn to intellectual pursuits such as reading, writing, and (yes) thinking.  In places like Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and Michigan, for those of us who don’t spend a lot of time before the television, winter is the season for intellectual activity.  Hence, I’ve coined the term “Intellectual Blizzard” for the increased intellectual activity that occurs from December through March.

I don’t have any proof that intellectual activity is positively correlated to the weather cycle, but I’ve got some anecdotal evidence that I’ve noticed as a college professor.

1. A lot less partying goes on in college towns when cold weather comes early in the fall.

2. A lot more partying goes on in college towns when spring comes unusually early.

3. Students are much more distracted prior to major exams when the weather is warm.

4. During the dead of winter students appear more lethargic, but are less distracted from studies.

When winter comes to Winona I try to find activities that keep me outside, but it isn’t long before I’m in the chair reading academic material or even a good novel.  There must be thousands like me in this state.  Hopefully some great wisdom will come as a result of our brain-busting efforts!

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