by Shannon Baker
Here it comes again.
It’s my last one here in Nebraska. I say this with my fingers crossed. I haven’t often said “never” in my life, but when I have, it’s come back to bite me. For instance, I remember my first drive through the Nebraska Sandhills. I said, “This is awful country. I’d never live here.”
Less than three years later I moved to the Sandhills and lived there for twenty years. It might not have been the awful country I’d imagined, but it was a challenge to love.
When I escaped from there, I moved to Boulder, Colorado. An amazingly beautiful place. From there I bounced down to Flagstaff, AZ. That’s the gateway to the Grand Canyon and in the middle of mountains and a lodegpole pine forest. I said, “I’m never going to live anywhere not beautiful again.”
A little over a year ago, I ended up in southwest Nebraska. There is probably plenty to love around here but this is a temporary gig for me and I don’t feel like setting out to find the silver lining. Bad attitude, I know, but I’ve been through menopause and older women tell me you lose your capacity to accept BS with the collagen and everything else that disappears. I’m good with that.
There are lovely homes in this town, even a luxury neighborhood on a golf course. We don’t live there. We live in the ghetto, if a town of 6,000 can have a ghetto. Our house is nearly 100 years old and has as much insulation as a canvas wall tent. (Just how the hell did Indians make it through prairie winters in a teepee, anyway?) All I have to do is survive one more winter here and we’re heading south, all the way to Tucson, where silver linings abound.
I have heat. An ancient furnace that kicks on about the time I can see my breath, blasts me into the Death Valley zone, then pops off, leaving the air to hiss against the frigid walls. It’s like a family-sized hot flash and everyone can share in the fun. I peel off layers at the height of the heat wave before I can start sweating, then quickly add them back when the temperature plummets again.
Last winter, I trudged to the library five days a week. This worked for me on multiple levels. It got me out of the house and among living people, made me stretch my legs and breath fresh air, imposed a work environment where I couldn’t leave until I completed my quota, and, the most important, the temperature remained steady. Chilly, but constant.
Back at home, my writing outfit consisted of long underwear, jeans, t-shirt, sweatshirt, fingerless gloves, down booties, and on the coldest days, my husband’s fleece pullover on top of it all. Most days I added a fleece cap, because, 80% of heat escapes through your head. (Did anyone else’s mother tell them that?)
I did a lot of cooking and baking, especially recipes on low heat that I could simmer all day. I even found a DIY heating system online that called for terra cotta flower pots and tea lights. I nearly burned the house down and have been banned from playing with matches ever since.
I’m bracing for it, clenching my teeth and pulling out the long underwear and wool socks. Here we go again. One last time. Winter is coming, and as with any George R. R. Martin work, there’s always a large and surprising death toll.
Our Midnight Inkers are scattered all over the map. The Minnesotans (Jessie Chandler and Jess Lourey) will call me a wimp. The Floridians (Deb Sharp) and Californians (Sue Ann Jaffarian) and Arizonans (Maegan Beaumont) have no clue what I’m talking about. The Coloradans (Linda Hull and Mark Stevens) will mock me since they spend winter with crisp white snow and bright sunshine. So what about the rest of you, tell us what you love and hate about winter.