In North Dakota the winds blow with intention. Unlike Oklahoma where the winds just blow relentlessly. November 1st marks three months in this new territory, and already, it seems my blood is thickening in anticipation of the winter to come. It’s all anyone talks about here, especially when they discover we are new to the area. It’s as if they are giddy for virgin flesh to sacrifice to the gods of cold, ice, wind, and snow. Just a week ago the skies opened with a sneak peak of coming attractions. The wind was blowing purposeful, rearranging the clouds like a housewife bored with her living room, when as if on cue, the snow began to fall in big wet flakes. The snow littered the ground, teasing us of a return visit. The snow is due back this weekend. Locals claim it is then that the cold comes to stay instead of just dropping by for a visit.
Preparations have begun, as there is now snow shovels and buckets of kitty litter posted like sentries at all the exits of our building. These weapons of war will soon be deployed to fight against the assault of a frigid enemy. It is a losing battle, a fruitless endeavor which will simply give us civilians a modest path to navigate winter’s more treacherous months. But preparation continues, nevertheless.
These kinds of rituals are helpful to the human condition; we go about our days and make room for changing seasons. We buy boots, and take winter coats out of storage, retiring the sun dresses and short sleaves to the back of the closet or third drawer of the chest. We anticipate what we will eat, how long we will sleep, what moments will bring us joy or sadness, as we seclude ourselves into hibernation. No doubt, Spring will return although she is delayed here in North Dakota. I here tell, she doesn’t plan on being back until late April at the earliest. This will be different, as to what I’m used to experiencing is short lived winters with two or three snow falls at the most and none that ever overstay their welcome.
But this is the stuff of life. The older one gets the longer winters become and more difficult with each passing year. Where once winter snows were an anticipated reprise from the tediousness of the schoolhouse, when we looked forward to cold toes and frozen fingertips and sipping hot chocolate by a fire as we warmed from an afternoon play. Now we just dread what is ahead, gazing at it behind the security of weather insulated windows and doors, without daring to venture out. We are too old, and it is too cold.
But winter will give us a season to reflect on what brought us here. Here to North Dakota where winter is a native and not just a seasonal worker. But not only here, as in North Dakota, but here as in -now. Jamestown, North Dakota, October 31, 2022.
As I walked around McElroy Park the other day, exploring, and enjoying one of autumn’s final performances, I walked across a wooden bridge that spanned the James River. Along the chain link wire fence, there were random locks attached to the intersecting steel with the etched initials of the lovers who placed them there. These romantic mementoes populated the entire stretch of the fence on both sides. But one specific lock caught my attention, where some poet philosopher had etched onto it the phrase “Perfectly imperfect.” This lock and phrase served as a reminder to me that for so many years perfection was my standard, a standard that I never achieved. But now as the winter approaches, I find myself in a much more blissful season. If my life were snow, measured in the amounts of years lived and experiences accumulated, I’m happy to say it is no longer pristinely white. This isn’t the first snow of innocence. Life has been lived, many seasons have come and gone. There are ruts and footprints that have disheveled the landscape, going, and coming in all directions.
Some random creatures have discolored the snow, it is yellow in places. On occasion I too, have even peed outside. Uncouth. But it’s my winter. It’s my snow.
Perfectly imperfect, I lean into the North Dakota winds, as they fill my sails with intention and purpose, wondering where they will take me next.