Iowa Alumni Magazine | February 2009 | Features

Winter Wonderland

By IAM Staff

If the State of Iowa ever needs a new slogan to capture the spirit of this place and people, here's a suggestion: Iowa is not for wimps. Particularly in the winter.

Despite the best efforts of the state's renowned poets and writers, Iowa can be too cold for words. Unless you've actually experienced such winters, you can't conceive of their sheer mind-numbing-bone-chilling-breath-taking frigidity. No wonder international students from gentler climes, bundled in every piece of clothing they own, wander the UI campus with a glazed look of disbelief.

Of course, this being Iowa, people here just get on with the business of living. Iowans dig out their down coats, fleece caps, and insulated boots. Snowplows start shoving around the UI campus in the dark early hours when most people are still hibernating in their warm beds.

Staff report for duty as usual at libraries, offices, hospitals, and clinics. Students trudge through slush to check off their last few classes and finals. Members of the UI Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble freeze their valves shut during the traditional holiday concert on the steps of Old Capitol.

Then, just as we start to curse the gray skies, icy roads, and onset of cabin fever, Iowa winter beguiles us with its glittering charms. Pristine snow crunches underfoot and bouquets of frost bloom on windshields. Holiday lights wrap tree branches in a magical glow and every breath lingers on the air like a frosty banner.

On such perfect winter days, the UI sparkles like a diamond-encrusted snow globe, with the silver ribbon of the Iowa River weaving through campus and the golden dome of Old Capitol shining beacon-bright against a cloudless blue sky.

For every seasonal negative—driveways in constant need of shoveling, chapped lips, and frozen toes—Iowa offers a positive experience: mugs of hot cocoa sipped in front of a blazing fire, the welcome embrace of a homemade scarf, and the back-to-childhood thrill of snowflakes on the tongue.

Love it or loathe it, we can't ignore an Iowa winter. But we can still wish for it to end.