This is what I see nearly every morning from November through March. No, it’s not a nice suburban street, it’s the frigging Moon. I leave before 6:00 and return at 6:00. This means it’s night when I leave and night when it return. And this is what I see: tumbling boulders of white, grey and brown. The sky is black. My headlights pick out deep shadows just as a Moon Rover would. Hell, I might as well take Apollo 11 to work.
Okay, when the sun comes up on those non-gloomy overcast days, you do see purple shadows and sparkly things. At those times I live on Antarctica. Towering pillars of steam climb into the sky from furnace flues. That’s when it’s normal-cold, say 0 ℉. When it’s -20 ℉, the sky is a Dantesque bloom of steamy mushroom clouds. Even the sound of things is different; tires squeak; metal shrieks, tiny birds titter, unseen.
The snow never melts in Minnesota; you get to look at the same piles of the stuff for nearly six months. They get higher and grayer as November moves to March. People must get around, so the highway departments hire Filth Trucks to push it somewhere incovenient, like, say, your driveway. When they can’t find a driveway, they just push it into big piles I call ‘Minnesota Mesas.’ The Filth Trucks’ job is to ensure everything is coated with salt and muddy sand, including the Mesas. In the late spring these slowly melt,oozing brine and grunge for weeks afterward.
For gardeners like me, this is a time of near-despair. I await the better weather, the end of this confinement. If I scrape away the deep snow, I may find a bright patch of green perennial leaves. But I pace the house and make my plans. It’s early January now. I have another THREE MONTHS of looking at Minnesota Mesas, car turds (don’t ask) and yellow dog snow.
People from warmer parts of the world really don’t understand the sense of total siege that winter reallyis. Family from tropical Texas send us Christmas cards with vignettes of snow-covered houses or sparkly fir trees. I NEVER send cards of winter scenes.
Humans don’t belong here. Our young species, Homo sapiens, evolved over 200,000 years ago in central Africa, far, far from any Ice Age glaciers. Thag and Oona never had to shovel their way out of snowy cave. No, they had some property on the savanna with a little summer place in the rain forest when it got too hot. I bet Oona had a great tan year-round. We’re just not designed for cold weather: we don’t have shaggy coats; we can’t hibernate; and fact is, we would die of hypothermia if our naked bodies are exposed to subzero temps. A parakeet has more cold resistence. We’re really hothouse orchids.
I have no extended family here. If my children settle someplace better, say, a coastal town with a one-month winter. I’m heading down to them. Permanently. I am SO out of here the day I retire.
I’m thinking … Panama!