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Taking shelter from the … shame and embarrassment

I was raised Catholic, so confession is nothing new to me. Even so, there are things I would still hesitate to divulge within the confines of a confessional, partly because I would feel too much shame and embarrassment confessing them to a priest.

Fortunately, as regular readers of this column know, I have no shame or embarrassment when a deadline is looming.

So here is my confession. Sometimes after the first snowfall, my thoughts turn to making a snow shelter – and actually spending a night in one. And, I’m ashamed and embarrassed to say, this happens every year.

Ideally, that shelter would be an igloo. I’m talking about a perfectly circular one that is so beautiful it could be in an Inuit issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

What generally happens, however, is that I get to the part where the curvature of the wall starts to get severe. That’s when it invariably collapses and I say to myself, “On the other hand, a quinzhee would be nice too.”

If you are unfamiliar with a quinzhee, it is essentially just a big pile of snow that has settled enough so that you can dig a shelter inside of it. Quinzhee, I suspect, is an Inuit word for failed igloo.

Clearly, this fantasy of spending a night outside in a snow shelter is nothing to be proud of. I know this because of a conversation I had with my best friend Tom last year around this time when the mood struck.

Steve: Hey Tom. I’m thinking of doing a little winter camping.

Tom: Oh God, you’re not thinking of sleeping outside in a snow fort again, are you?

Steve: It’s a quinzhee, Tom.

Tom: Your igloo already collapsed?

(Long, awkward silence, in which I am embarrassed for myself, and Tom is embarrassed for me.)

Steve: Anyhoo….. I’m working on a quinzhee, and I am seriously considering sleeping in it tonight. The temperature is only supposed to go down to minus-10 with the wind chill.

Tom: Did you and Jenn have a really bad argument?

Steve: No. I just want to do this.

Tom: Apologize to her. Roses and a bottle of wine might also help.

Steve: It’s not like that. We’re getting along just fine. Heck, I even invited her to spend the night in my quinzhee with me.

Tom: Apologize to her. Roses and a bottle of wine might also help.

Steve: So, you think this is a bad idea?

Tom: You have a warm bed in your house, right? And a fully functional furnace?

Steve: Yes.

Tom: Is anyone daring you or paying you large sums of money to do this? Has some sadist kidnapped your kids and will only release them on this condition?

Steve: No.

Tom: Are you hearing little voices inside your head again?

Steve: No.

Tom: So, there is no logical reason for doing this?

Steve: I want to prove I can. I need to know in case I find myself in a survival situation where a quinzhee is required and an igloo is not.

Tom: The last time you did this, you snuck back in the house at 9 p.m.

Steve: I think I can do better this time.

Tom: I should hope so. You only entered your snow fort at 8:45 p.m.

Steve: It’s a quinzhee…

Tom:  Sure it is. So, to recap: you could sleep in a nice warm bed, or you could choose to sleep in a snow fort until just after 9 p.m. and sneak sheepishly into the house, half-frozen and embarrassed by your failure.

Steve:  There is no embarrassment in trying.

Tom: You are a grown man, wanting to sleep in a snow fort.

Of course, he’s wrong about that. It’s a quinzhee…

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