A note on blizzards

The tiny town on the middle of the prairie where I attend school has been struck by a blizzard.  And, like any respectable college student, I compare my suffering to Disney movies.  Specifically, I compare my suffering with Disney movies that deal with snow, ice, and all the magical goodness that Minnesota winters bring.  Yes, I’m talking about Frozen.

(Spoilers ahead.)

You know the scene, near the end, where Elsa’s emotions spiral so out of control that Arendelle is lost amid a massive swirling cloud?  Desperate to melt her frozen heart, our spunky protagonist and the tender-hearted mountain man brave the elements, struggling toward each other through the terrifying cold and whipping snow.  Valiantly they push through the storm, determined against all odds to find each other before it’s too late…

That’s how I felt walking to class today.

My face was numb after about thirty seconds and the wind nearly pushed me to the ground several times.  Yet still I struggled, putting one foot after another, determined against all odds to reach my destination.

The only difference between my day and Frozen is there was no Kristoff waiting for me on the other side of the blizzard. No.  No lovable mountain man to melt the despair I felt at the prospect of risking my life for the sake of my education.  In his place was class, professors, and homework.

I wish my life were a Disney movie.

The Perks of Being a Cat

Oh, to be a cat.

“You really have it made,” I told Paco, who is yellow and as apathetic as a stuffed animal, as I gave him the best pet down he has ever experienced in all his nine lives.  “I mean, all you do is sleep all day.  You come into the house, something none of the other cats get to do, you lay on this chair, and you sleep for hours on end.  You always know what your next meal is and you don’t get tired of eating the same food every day.  You always have people petting you.  You don’t have to worry about things like work, school, or money.  You don’t have to make major decisions.  You don’t even have to think.  You’ve really got it made.”

I’m a bit envious of Paco, actually.  He doesn’t have to think about things.  As much as I value having cognitive ability, there are times when all I want to do is flip a  flashing red OFF button on my brain.  Sometimes–scratch that–most of the time, I think WAY too much.  This only gets worse when I have serious things to ponder: what I’m doing with my life, if I should go back to work at camp this summer, what books will I bring to school this semester, etc.  You know, not-quite-real-adult problems.  In a few months, they’ll be but tiny blips on the surface of my life.  But, for now, they seem massive–an ever-looming force that induces panic when touched by thought.  If you don’t think about them, they fade away.  But, unfortunately, there is no OFF button in my brain and I’m certainly no cat.    I can’t close my eyes, lift my head to be scratched, and let the burden of possessing thoughts fade into oblivion.

If I was busy, all the cares floating around in my brain would fade into the background.  But spending days on end cooped up in your house usually gives way to boredom.  That’s what you get, though, when you live in Minnesota during winter.  The temperature dips to ridiculously low degrees (we’re talking -20 here) and you’re unable to go anywhere because your car won’t start.  And, as wonderful as the Internet and Netflix are, they only keep your thoughts occupied for so long.

In four days, I’ll be back in school, surrounded by friends, with plenty of textbook reading to keep my mind busy.

Until then, I’ll continue to pet Paco and try not to think too hard.

Freeze

Minnesota has frozen.  It’s like the new Disney movie only with no castles, no talking snowmen, and at the end of the day, no amount of love makes the weather get better.  The cold is here, and it’s here to stay.

Yesterday was the first time the temperature was above zero in a week.  The ground is covered in a foot of snow.  When the wind blows, the snow scatters across the road, making driving a near impossibility.  This coming Monday, the governor of the state shut down all the schools because the high for the Twin Cities area is -13 F.  Average temperatures in Western Minnesota (where I go to college) are for around -20 F.  Add in windchill and it’s significantly lower.

Why am I talking about the weather?  Well, that’s what Minnesotans do.  We talk (or, rather, complain) about the weather.  Lately, courtesy of global warming, it’s always doing something strange.  We get fifty degrees in May followed by nineties in September.  We get the longest spring in history, with gorgeous weather starting in March, and the next year winter lasts nearly five months.  You can never seem to win.

When I was in Ireland, during the drive from Dublin to Cork, the tour guide was talking about the weather.  Apparently, obsession with discussing the external conditions is a worldwide thing.  Anyways, he said that he was once in Canada during the winter.  He walked off the airplane and absolutely could not believe how cold it was.  Ungodly, he called it.  He listed off some of the basic conditions he experienced there, then asked us, “How do people survive?”  The others on the bus (a few fellow American students living in Rome, a couple from somewhere in England, and an Australian) shuddered in terror.  I just shrugged because the horrors he described were what I’ve lived through for the past twenty-one winters.

This morning, I was on my way into the local gym and I passed the manager.  She was bundled up like a marshmallow and I could only recognize her through a small slit for her eyes.  The rest of her face was covered in a low hat and tightly wound scarf.  Last night was particularly windy, so she was shoveling away the snow drift that had made its home in front of the doorway.  It looked like she was working hard–she didn’t even need to go inside where the weights and running machines were to get her daily exercise.  As I plodded through the drift to the door, she looked at me and, through all her layers, I could see the exasperation on her face as she asked me a very important question:

“Why do we live here?”

In the moment that followed I had a mental flashback to living in London, where the weather is in the fifties and the only impediment is the occasional rain shower.

I then replied, “I ask myself that every day.”

Once inside, after tugging off my own layers, tying up my gym shoes, and settling my Kindle on the elliptical, I pondered the manager’s question.  And, despite the terrifying cold, the ghastly amounts of snow, treacherous driving conditions, and layers upon layers of dangerous ice everywhere, I knew exactly why we live here.

It’s home.  Deep down, we take pride in living in ungodly conditions.  You could almost say that we love it.  (But, if you ask, we’ll never actually admit it.)