"When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure." -Peter Marshall
When I think of Siberia in the winter I get flashes of desolate stretches of freezing cold white landscape. It is a cold so deep and relentless that it is hard to imagine how people survive, let alone thrive through the long winter. Today I learned about another example of the power of human positivity against even the most extreme cold in the world – the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival.
Located in the northernmost area of China, just 400 km from Siberia, it is the largest and most impressive temporary village of ice palaces, temples, bridges and gigantic sculptures ever assembled in the world. Giant architectural replicas of some of the most beautiful and famous structures in Russia and China are recreated out of ice and then lit from below with colored lights. I was overcome by the beauty, ingenuity, creativity and courage that humanity contains in one of earth's most barren landscapes.
To create this wonderland of ice, each year based on a different theme, is one of the highest acts of community I have ever witnessed. How have I never heard of this festival before? How many incredible human efforts are we surrounded by that we don't ever witness? How much goodness might be surrounding us right now and we might not even be looking in that direction?
I used to live in Minnesota. I know deep cold. You have to plug your car into a heater over night. Metals become so brittle in the cold that they crack. It takes 15 minutes to put on enough clothes to step outside. It isn't generally festival weather. Yet here a society so driven to come together in life creates a literal wonderland out of desolation.
Millions of people from all over the world come to marvel at the works of art that will only live until the next thaw. The month of the festival is enough for the artists and builders to spend countless hours in the bitterest of colds to create. If ever there were a testament to what is truly heartfelt courage – it is this. I never thought I would ever want to go to Siberia in the heart of winter- but here I am saying it. I want to go feel the heart that could melt away the coldest of nights.
Not sold yet? Spend a few minutes imaging yourself here. The world will continue to amaze and nowhere more so than when we take the most challenging of circumstances and turn them into the diamonds of life. There are only bad conditions in our mind; the rest is what we make it.