Mandan News

Brian L. Gray: Cool fun in the wintertime

Remember that scene from the movie “Forrest Gump,” where Forrest is running through the prairie, as a large, looming storm cloud rolls through the background to the tune of Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty?” I stumbled across that moment on my television late at night a while back.

I wasn’t watching the movie. I got distracted by something else earlier and left the TV on, because I have a propensity for wanting constant noise at home. I was walking past the TV as this scene was on, and I stopped dead in my tracks. It’s a scene that is not really a scene but a brief, passing moment in the film, and if you have a congenital defect where you blink for longer than three seconds, you’d miss it. The visual beauty of that prairie Forrest was running across suddenly caught my attention. The lush green farmland, the golden wheat, the inimitably gorgeous pastels that painted the sky, struck me on a certain level I didn’t expect it to, and I started to choke up.

I didn’t know if it was the multitudes of memories I’ve had watching storms over the years while growing up in North Dakota, or if I just loved running that much. But I had to sit down and breath for a moment, because that brief moment hit me on a deep level of raw emotion.

Was it simply good filmmaking, or was something else at play here? Maybe it was the feeling of home that hit me. Maybe it was some connection to the song that got to me. Maybe it was the mood I was in. It could have been a combination of all these factors that impacted me. There was no simple answer. So I rewound the movie and watched that moment again, so that I could replay the feeling once more and dig deeper into myself.

The next day I believed the answer arose – I came to the conclusion that I’m crazy. And I knew why. Because I choose to surround myself in arctic temperatures for consecutive months, and hammer my way through it like any psychotic Midwestern person would. I got chocked up because I saw the beauty our prairie had the potential to display, while the current reality was we were swallowed up in snow. I realized THAT’S how much I’m waiting for spring, that I can’t stop myself from choking up while watching Forrest run.

We are insane. All of us. That’s really all there is to it. Wintertime is brutal. It brings us down. It darkens our days, casts a shadow on our psyche.

It puts me into a hibernating mode. I don’t have energy, I don’t want to do anything, and if I actually do anything I do it knowing that it’s against every fiber of my being.

I’ve constantly been told of activities one can do to make the best of winter, from ice skating, sledding, making a snowman or staying inside.

I admit those are expedient joys that are fun, no doubt, but I demand more. I often require new ways of enjoyment. I’m a creative type; I’m never satisfied with the status quo. So I’ve come up with creative ways to foster the delusion that wintertime does not drive me to insanity.

I thought I’d share with you a few of the games I like to play in the winter, and quite possibly you may want to give some of them a try yourself:

• Implement more creativity to making snow angels. Try to make shapes you usually make when you do shadow puppets or origami – make a lion, an elephant, a duck, a nun, whatever. Use your creative mind and let loose.

• Get a group together and do some interpretive dances outside. Me and a buddy of mine have been working on a duet dance that we’ve been choreographing. We’ve called it Two Morons Dance Weirdly in the Snow.

• Find some yellow snow, then make an arrow imprint in the snow pointing towards it. Then write underneath the arrow, “DON’T EAT.”

• Go outside and recreate your favorite movie scenes that take place outdoors in the winter. My favorite? “Rocky IV.” I go outside with a ghetto blaster, and rock out to the tune “Gonna Fly Now” as I lift logs and make weird faces, just like Sly Stallone did.

• Grab that ghetto blaster again and make a mix tape (does anyone remember what those are, by the way?) filled with all of your favorite summer-themed tunes – I suggest Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze,” Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime,” or Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” and as those songs play, stand next to your boombox and openly weep.

• Buy some nametags (“Hi! My name is…”) and walk around your neighborhood. Track down a snowman on your neighbor’s yard. Look that snowman over from head to toe, and figure out what the snowman’s name should be. Then write it on the nametag, and place it on the snowman’s lapel.

• Or if you want to vent some of your winter frustration, go outside, find a snowpile, and yell at it – “Go away! Nobody wants you here! Can’t you see that nobody likes you?! Get out of here!” This is one of my favorite activities.

• Or you can just stay indoors and count your arm hairs. At the end of the day, no one can tell you what to do.

Games are the activities we play to help pass the time and take control of the ennui we face. They are perfect in the winter, because that’s all we really want to do – pass the time.

I’m bitter. I know. That comes with time. Besides, I get raw and edgy when dealing with subzero temperatures. I can do nothing but take it all a day at a time, with the reassuring understanding that better days are around the corner.

Until then, well, I guess I’ll be running on empty. To the theme of Rocky, of course.