The bird bath has dried up from all the wind and I really must disassemble it and shove it under the deck as the only creature using it now is the cat (“Yummmm…the world’s largest water dish.”) and she’s sure to break it one of these days in her acrobatic leaps from the deck.
We’ve put the hoses in the shed, all drained and freeze-proof. The tomato cages are lying on the shelf beside the empty flower pots. I dug up my two amaryllis bulbs and they’re drying out, waiting to be doomed to the furnace room for the next several months. One of them should be fine…the other one seems to have lost its roots and I’m fairly certain that keeping it is foolish, but I’m an optimist.
My solar-powered frog has died a noble death, though he still looks cute sitting on the deck. In the winter, with a beard of snow, we call him Dumbledore. Or Gandolf. Depending on which O’Donnell you ask. I can’t bear to banish him to the shed…I need something hopeful to look at when the temperatures have reached obscene levels and the dirt road we live on is snowed in like The Shores of Silver Lake and I’m Laura Ingalls.
The longest we’ve been trapped here waiting for the snow plow is three days. Yes, in modern America. Lucy was one week old. Luckily she was born two weeks early or I could have really gotten to understand pioneer life far more than I ever wanted to.
The tremendous bummer about this time of year – the thing that makes even a confirmed optimist cringe – is the knowledge that there are five months of winter yet to come. But, bizarrely, I’m looking forward to the first snow. If only the first would be the last! There’s something fun about the first snow. The first fire in the fireplace. The first time I wear a scarf legitimately rather than acsessoristicly. (Try finding that in the dictionary!) Any snow after that is just mean-spirited.
BUT…and I mean this with all sincerity…I chose this life. I like Minnesota, where the only mountains (at least in my neck of the woods) are actually just clouds on the horizon, taunting me with their faux-snow-covered peaks. I have fallen for this trick of theirs more than once. “Look!” I’ll think, my heart leaping disloyally. “The mountains are out!” And then my brain catches up with my heart. “Oh. Never mind. Shoot.”
I miss real mountains. And real ocean. When I first moved to the Duluth area, I stared in dumbfounded shock at the people who said, “Oh, you must love Lake Superior! It’s just like the ocean!” After smiling weakly at these kindly-but-misguided attempts at helping me feel at home, I would walk away thinking, “These people have obviously never been to the sea.” And somehow all their words just made me sad. Lake Superior – while being a very cool/beautiful/impressive body of water and I really, really like it – is NOT the ocean! It doesn’t smell right! It doesn’t have tides that strand you on the rocks if you keep your back turned too long, or tide pools teaming with creepy-crawly life or Bull Kelp that you gather up and make pickles from…at least if you’re really adventurous, you do.
I miss those things terribly. Around here the only sea breezes come from my air freshener and the starfish are all named Patrick and are drawn by some dude in a studio somewhere in California, ad nauseum, ad infinitum, amen.
But, thankfully, there’s this great invention called the airplane. And I have come to realize that it can take me – often for free, thanks to my husband’s air miles – to those gorgeous, mountain-filled paradises. So long as I can get to the airport through the raging blizzards. (Yes. I speak from experience. Several experiences, in fact.)
The thing is, if I’m willing to admit to the absolute truth, the Pacific Northwest is not perfect either, and, truly, I’m not sure that I’d fit in there anymore. I’ve actually lived AWAY from there longer than I lived there. In my mind, of course, I have idealized it. Fact is, nowhere is perfect, except in memories. Or, perhaps, on the pages of a book. That’s why I’m a writer – one reason, anyway – because, when I’m making up my own world, everything is just the way I want it. (Except for those pesky characters who INSIST on turning left when you wanted them to turn right. And nothing, no-how, can force them left. People have a mind of their own – even made-up people.)
And so I imagine my mountains. I hang pictures of the ocean; of my son, sandy and happy at age two, holding up a shell to his daddy at the Oregon coast. I put sea-shells on my piano and beach-glass on my desk. I bundle up. I cling to scarves like life-vests. I say “uff da” to fit in and I’ve even tried eating Lutefisk. Once. That was enough.
BUT…and let me make this perfectly clear…I will NEVER “borrow you a pencil”. (Though I’d be glad to loan you one.) Because, let’s face it, there are somethings Minnesotan that I’m willing to claim. And somethings that should just be left alone.