My heart still aches with sadness
and secret tears still flow.
What it means to lose you,
only you could know.
On The Way
I think it helps to understand,
Not all journeys are planned.
Happiness is the transportation,
not the destination.
All of us have a tendency to think happiness is a destination, a reward. I try to remind myself that on these journeys, happiness is always possible, because it's generally a state of mind. You can make a conscious decision to be happy-or not.
This is the time of year when giving should be a part of your life. It is good for the soul to give of yourself, your time, your resources, and share your personal bounty with those less fortunate. There are people around us whose situation borders on desperation.
Awakened by the insistence of a needy puppy, I stood minimally garbed in the pre-twilight darkness. The temperature was delightfully too warm for the middle of December. A dark tarp covering the wood pile flapped violently in the persistent strong wind. The distant howl of an unseen coyote was answered like a doleful dirge by a yard bound dog. The amber glow of distant city lights against low clouds burned through silhouettes of starkly barren trees.
The cold comes out of the night. It comes to steel your being, to test your metal. It comes to remind you we live in Iowa, in a northern clime. It comes to remind you budgets are there to provide for heat, to remind you to stock your wood pile well. It comes to show you just how small we are in the scheme of things.
It comes to remind you cars need upkeep, routine maintenance, and an old battery will only give you one chance to start the engine. It comes to remind you door closers stiffen and slow in the chill. That rubber tires can become hard and unforgiving of bumps overnight. It comes to remind that the snow shovel leaning unused against the side of the house for so long has a use. To remind that layers are good, but children resist. That new snow hides the perils of old slippery spots from the previous snow.
It comes to show that even the young at heart can have unspeakable and non-specific pains in their joints. That even a loving stroke of a dog's fur can generate a surprisingly painful static zap. It shows two dogs greeting each other can shoot a visible spark between their noses.
It comes to demonstrate global warming might come next month, and you hope so. You find out who your friends are; they check on you. You find out there are some people who still don't slow down while driving to work, and that some cars will slide and end up in a ditch.
You learn that people look oddly different when donning their heavy winter attire; you may not even recognize your neighbor in line at the store. Fashion goes out the window, and you wear whatever will keep you warm. You learn you can't leave an ink pen in your coat pocket because the ink will freeze. You learn that a tootsie roll left in your pocket will shatter when chomped on. You hear the radio announcer give the temperature and think he's giving the time. Your headlights dim on their own. The weather is at the top of the newscast.
You know it is cold when that pile of snow on the floor of your car never melts. You are willing to wash the dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher, just to warm your hands. The bottle of emergency water you keep in your car is hard as a rock. You no longer can see out the back door window because it is covered with frost on the inside. A cold stare warms you up. A handshake from your boss feels warm.
It must be cold when the dogs refuse to go outside. It must be, when the thought of leaving that hot steamy shower is almost unbearable. When you exhale, it frosts your glasses. The mudroom becomes your second refrigerator, and pop stays cold enough to drink. You squeeze your nose and your nostrils stick together. You are thrilled when the thermometer says it's finally 10 degrees.
I know it's cold when the snow squeaks under my foot. When I put socks on in the morning and later see they don't match, and don't change them. I see a small child in a snowsuit sliding on their back on the snow and can't tell for sure which end is up. I go to a local restaurant and everyone is eating with their coats on, and nobody is ordering ice cream. I know by seeing the row of winter coats on the hooks in the mudroom, and the jackets are long ago hidden in the closet. I know it is cold when the shirts on the front and center "recent" space on my clothes rod are all long sleeved and thermal.
During a protracted cold snap I begin to fret the 5 cords of wood I cut for the winter is not going to be enough. I fret the crack in the ground directly above the pipe going from the wellhead to the pump house is more than frost heave.
I worry I'll blow a frozen tire off the rim if I hit an unseen pothole I worry all those plastic parts on my car will break if bumped or touched. And, that hat head is going to be a permanent malady. That skiing in the woods I'll fall down and get hurt, and they won't find me until spring. That once again my cell phone will slip from my hands and fall into the snow and IT won't be found until spring. That this is only the beginning and the worst is yet to come.
Until next time-
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In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2013 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.