SISTERS OF THE SOUTH WIND

 

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SISTERS OF THE SOUTH WIND

I have made it abundantly clear that I love my sisters. We are harmonious toward each other, even in the face of potential differences of opinion about politics, religion, genetic cloning perhaps, even public nudity, if it were to become an issue. I consider them my best friends, and they are my first line of defense when I need a go-to friend to help me get through a crisis, solve a problem, or someone to cry to. However, there is one issue, one topic that I stand diametrically opposed to Gail and Suzanne on, and I cannot go to them with this problem, because it is not a problem for them.  They simply don’t understand. In fact, they feel just the opposite.  If there is a scar on the face of our otherwise beautiful sisterly triad, it is this: Gail and Suzanne love the wind, and I loathe it.

Further, I know I am the sensible one here, and they are the insane ones. I mean, really. What kind of person loves the wind?

In my post Weather Girls (January 28th, 2018), I wrote about just how much they really do love the wind. And, if you know either of them very well, you will likely know this fact about them. And, hopefully, you side with me and realize they are indeed crazy.

Gail loves it so much, that she has thought about changing her name to Gail Force Winds.

But enough about this fundamental difference between them and me. Let’s get down to the business of making peace with this stumbling block. That’s what we are all about, after all. I’m trying to create optimism and positivity here.

Clearly, I know wind is a fact of nature that cannot be eliminated or altered. It cannot be escaped in Kansas. As a matter of true fact, our state’s name is from the Native Americans, and it means People of the South Wind.

I know in my heart, mind and soul that no amount of lamenting or complaining about the wind will change it. As a general policy in my life, I try very hard not to complain about things I cannot change, and if I can change something, I try not to complain about it. Yet, I continue to complain.  Gail and Suzanne remind me that nothing I say or do will change it, so why not embrace it? I have tried, but to no avail—yet.

This morning—November 17th, I awoke to a beautiful, calm, 40-degree sunny morning. The flag was beautifully still,

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The pampas grass wasn’t moving,

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and neither were the remaining leaves on the trees.

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I enjoyed a morning run, but by the time I returned, all this had changed. The northwest wind was blowing, the trees and the flag were moving and the pampas grass was swaying. It was tolerable, but it was there. It is generally a fact of life in Kansas.

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Today, we are The People of the Northwest Wind.

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Wind is generally a fact of life, no matter where you go, even to Colorful Colorado, where we just visited two weeks ago.

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It seems, however, that Kansas has more than its share. I don’t mind the wind in the summer. I rather enjoy the feeling of a blast furnace when the strong winds blow in the 100-degree plus summer heat. Call me crazy. Go ahead, I know you want to. I’ll take that weather any day over the cold.

do like the wind for several reasons, at the right time, at the right speeds.  First, it keeps the bugs away in the summer.  Second, I rely upon it to dry my laundry on my back-porch redneck clothesline, all year round.  Here it is, doing its job today, as well on the front porch.  If you look under the flag in the picture above, you will see the wind at work.

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I like the cold when the wind isn’t blowing. Give me a sunny, calm, sub-freezing day, and I’m happy. My favorite running weather is just that: 20°, sunshine and zero wind. Throw in some snow on the ground, and it’s perfect.

Again, call me crazy.

As soon as the wind kicks in, however, all bets are off. It’s a complete deal-breaker. If the skies are gray too, I find myself wanting to hole up in my basement where I am oblivious to the weather conditions outside.

Because, I realize, the weather conditions outside play a big role in determining my weather conditions inside. I am solar-powered, and without the sun for an extended stretch, I feel gray, too.

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We grew up in a 100-year old+ farmhouse. Gail and I shared an upstairs bedroom on the north, and Suzanne moved in with me when Gail moved out. I remember the cold north wind freezing us out; the house wasn’t exactly insulated well. I remember the wind whistling and howling in the winter as we shivered in bed.   The house came down a few years ago, but I will never forget it. Most of the memories were good ones, and I will be forever grateful for the shelter it provided.

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Our north bedroom window was the large one upstairs.

My bedroom now is upstairs on the north side of the house. When the north wind howls in the winter now, I send up a silent thank you for the warm and well-insulated home I now live in. At least once every winter, I try to tell my Mark-of-all-trades husband thank you for building it so well to keep us warm.

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Last Monday was Veteran’s Day. As I age, I continue to deepen my gratitude for the freedoms that were won for me, and protected still by active military.   I know that none of us can ever repay the veterans for their sacrifices, so a deep sense of gratitude is the least they deserve from us.

The temperature was about 20° Monday morning, and the feels like index, according to the weatherman, was 2°.  The north wind was brutal and blowing a light snow, and it simply wasn’t safe or smart to be out in it if it wasn’t necessary.

I depend on my morning run to start my day, and to keep me running all day. Quite simply, if I don’t run, I don’t run. If I wanted to get any exercise in that day, it would have to be on the dreaded elliptical trainer in my basement. So, that’s what I did. I realized as I ticked off the minutes, however, that it was fitting that I had to sacrifice just a little freedom on this sacred day. Still, I didn’t like it one bit.

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As fall continues to fall, and so do the temperatures, I feel the annual sense of dread and doom, the specter of internal darkness that begins to hover over and around me when I know that winter will soon be here. The days continue to get shorter—only 34 days until they get longer again, but who’s counting—and this darkness tries to pervade my sense of happiness.

I know the cold winter is almost here, and from all professional prognostications I have heard, it’s going to be a bad one. And by bad, for Kansas that usually means lots of snow, icy conditions, colder temperatures and strong north winds.  I could make it through with a smile if not for the blasting north winds.

This autumn, however, I have made a conscious effort to savor the beautiful weather and splendid show of color Mother Nature provides every year at this time. It’s working a little better that usual. But it’s not enough to fend off the winter-is-coming blues.

I have committed myself to Kansas, and it is my home. It is in my heart and soul; it is the land that shaped my past and will continue to positively influence my future. If I had to name my least favorite aspect of Kansas, it would be the wind. It is the fly in the ointment, the pock mark on an otherwise beautiful face.

So, dear reader, here is my request: Surely many (most?) of you feel the way I do about the wind. If you do, and you have some positive insight/affirmation/encouragement, I want to hear it. I want to know how you get through the cold, windy days and nights. I want to remain smitten with Kansas, and if I can make peace with the wind, I would be a much happier camper when the cold winter winds blow.

We’re all in this together, and I am hoping you can help me. The struggle is real, folks. I need help, and I am reaching out to anyone who may have some to offer. Gail and Suzanne, as dear as they are to me, are useless in this fight, because they don’t see it as a fight. Again, I think they are a little crazy, but I try to respect their likes and dislikes.

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My husband spent many years constructing buildings in every kind of weather. While he did his time in hard labor, and now manages projects instead of building them, he feels the same way I do about the wind.   He knows his sisters-in-law love the wind, and more than once after a day in the wind, he would cuss them to me. I always understood. It would go something like this:

I’d like to see them take a sheet of metal and try to get it up on a roof in this wind without sailing away, or getting their hands sliced open when the wind tears it out of their hands.”

My neighbor stopped by this morning, and, without me complaining first, she said, “I can’t stand the wind. It’s depressing.”  Obviously, I concur.

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I often go to senior living facilities to see my home health patients. I noticed a pattern several years ago, one that serves to offer me wisdom, should I choose to accept it.

In many facilities, there are outdoor patios. Many of these patios are adorned with wind chimes. It struck me, one windy winter day, while looking up at three stories of apartments with their patios/balconies, that so many of the residents had wind chimes hanging outside. Could it be, that in their wisdom from their years of (likely) living in Kansas, that they are choosing to celebrate the wind, rather than bemoaning it, like I do? Could it be that simply accepting this fact, and maybe even celebrating it with things like wind chimes would offer me much-needed inner peace on cold, windy days? Perhaps. And that is why I am asking for your help, because clearly, I am not achieving it on my own.

I will continue to find peace in so many other naturally beautiful aspects of Kansas, especially the sunrises and sunsets.

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Next weekend, I am gallivanting off for more fun, this time with friends, so there will be no post. I am celebrating a birthday for a dear friend, along with another dear friend. Like me, the birthday girl is in and out of her car all day as part of her work. Like me, she loathes the wind. Any advice you have for me will also be a birthday gift for her.

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She gave me this beautiful piece of outdoor art with the sun face on it several years ago for my birthday, and last spring, I caught it capturing the brilliant light of the sun as it rose.

Hanging just above it are my own wind chimes. This morning and this afternoon,, they are silent, hanging on the east side of the porch.  Next time they  offer me beautiful music. I will choose to listen.

The lines are open for your comments. I appreciate any an all advice and inspiration you have to offer on how you cope with the wind, no matter what state you live in.

Thank you.

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I believe when we lose a loved one, they remain with us in so many other ways, but we have to be open to them. This morning, I sat down to write this post, knowing I was writing about the weather. I decided to first read the day book that belonged to my mother, a book I gave her that she loved, highlighting her favorite parts. Some days, she highlighted the title, which I interpret to mean that she liked the whole thing.   Many days, she speaks to me, telling me exactly what I need to hear through the highlighted parts. This morning, she did just that. *

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*Sarah Ban Breathnach, 1995, Simple Abundance:  A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.  Warner Books, New York, New York.  

WEATHER GIRLS

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WEATHER GIRLS

“The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful.”   Jimmy Buffett

Let’s talk about the weather.  That sounds simple enough.  Except with Gail and Suzanne, it’s not that simple, not just a casual conversation starter.  Weather is serious business for them, at least, certain kinds.

I posted previously that both Gail and Suzanne love the wind.  I loathe the wind.  Call them crazy.  Go ahead—I did.  The wind makes me want to pack up and leave my home state; my home.  My husband threatens to challenge them to carry a large sheet of plywood or a roof panel in the wind.  Then tell us how much you love the wind.   He does love my sisters, but on windy days, that love is challenged.

There was a time in our younger lives when our family’s livelihood—not our lives, though—depended upon the weather.  Growing up on a farm, we realized that Mother Nature heavily dictated our family’s annual bounty—or relative lack thereof.

Now, it is a factor that is considered heavily for our quality of life, no longer our livelihood.

It can still dictate the livelihoods of our two farming brothers.  Droughts, floods, high winds, hail and tornadoes can, and sometimes do decimate a crop.  Their day-to-day operations are dictated by the weather as well.

Our brother David makes his living in the air, and is responsible for his, and 100-plus souls.   As the captain, he has to decide if the weather should let them go up, keep them up, stay on the ground or go around it after going up.

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His son Nick is a newly minted atmospheric scientist.  It didn’t surprise any of us that he took after his dad in his vigilant watch on the weather.

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We are proud to claim a resident meteorologist in our family.

Other than exercising extra caution while driving, the weather really doesn’t affect the livelihoods of the girls of The Sister Lode.  Sometimes, like in the last few weeks however, I had a blessed, glorious Snow Day.  I am not willing to drive from my rural home–typically 30-plus miles–when the conditions are dangerous.  My work is not that important.

You would think the weather determines Gail and Suzanne’s lives, livelihoods, happiness, and general existence.  They are a little over the top in their love for certain conditions that most of us find unfavorable.

Perhaps it was Gail’s initiation into this world, those first six weeks I mentioned in last week’s post that were spent snowed in with Mom, Dad and our oldest brother.  Perhaps that is why she so loves snowstorms now.

To her heart’s delight, she got a good one last weekend.  The one that kept her from joining Suzanne and me for Mom’s birthday shopping trip.

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Suzanne loves storms in general, and speaks of her disappointment when the weather forecast for strong storms doesn’t deliver.  I must add I feel that too.  I do love a good thunderstorm.

Gail fondly refers to strong winds and/or tornadoes as “wind events.”  A local friend lost several structures to a tornado, and she coined that term.  Gail latched on to it.

If you know Gail, you won’t be surprised by her contribution here—and I quote:

“There is nothing you can do to change it outside of moving, so embrace it.  And I would like to add ‘quit your bitching.’  There are a lot of things worse than the weather.  Be glad you have sight to see and ears to hear the weather.”

If you don’t know Gail, let’s just say you usually know how she feels about an issue.    And that’s all good.  I look up to her for many reasons; her ability to express herself assertively is one of them.

Suzanne, in her trademark short-and-sweet style gives this simple advice:

“Get over it.”

I proposed this question to both of them:  “If you had to live with one set of weather conditions every day for the rest of your life, what would they be?”

Suzanne: “Eighty degrees, cloudy, windy.  You can’t get it windy enough for me.  No sun.  I’m kind of like a vampire.”

Gail:  “Eighty-five degrees, hot, full sun, heavy breeze. You can interpret heavy breeze however you like.”  Keep in mind she loves wind.  As a matter of fact, she thinks the term gale force winds should be changed to Gail force winds.

And from me:  One hundred degrees, full sun, and a light breeze.

Call me crazy.  I know you want to.  But you have to call them crazy as well.

I must add that on the most windy of our windy days, I want to give it all up and move away.  It has the opposite effect on me.  I simply hate the wind.  I have realized I must simply let them have their love of the wind, no matter how much I hate it.  I struggle as I write and that’s okay.  

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Twenty degrees.  Sunshine.  No wind.  These are my favorite weather conditions for my morning run.  Such were the conditions this morning when I conceived the idea for this post.  I realized how good I feel not only when I run, but how much the weather affects its quality.    I also feel my mind running, reeling, loosed in a field of possibilities for words on paper.  When I get home, I often jot down a few ideas that came to me because I know from experience if I don’t, they will be gone.  Sometimes it is an exact string of words, a complete sentence that I must dictate repeatedly to myself as I run home in order to preserve it.  Sometimes, it is simply a vague idea.  Today, it was this idea.

On Monday, Mom’s birthday, I ran into blinding snow for a few minutes.  I knew I would round a curve soon behind the trees and have the snow blowing at my side instead of in my face.  I knew I would be fine for a bit if I sucked it up and let it hit me, so I did.  I have done it before.

If there’s no ice, and it’s above ten degrees, I try to get out to run.  Preferably with the wind at my side or my back.  I needed this run today, more than most days.

I missed Mom more that day.  I wanted her here to celebrate with me, even though I knew in my heart of hearts that she was much happier where she was now, and probably wouldn’t come back, even if she could.  I had a great day with Suzanne on our shopping trip for her the day before.  We had a great three-way speaker-phone call with Gail on the way home.  We had been through this day eight times without her already.  Still, I wanted her here.

I finished my run; the snow relenting to a flurry.  I was glad to get out and run through these blues in the gray weather.  I felt better, but the weather stayed gray.  I wanted blue skies, but gray they stayed.

So I stayed a little gray too.

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I am solar-powered.  I have come to realize this, and I am trying to make peace with it on the cold and overwhelmingly gray January days like Monday.  Mercifully, they typically relent quickly, and within a few days, I can tolerate the January weather once again.  Just three days after those gray skies prevailed after the mini-blizzard, we tied our record high in my small city at 67 degrees.

On our way home from our shopping trip last Sunday—at 57 degrees, we saw one of these:

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Suzanne and I, having recently been there and longing to go back, know the weather there.

At that moment, the blizzard was raging at Gail’s house.

“Imagine you are the people in that car from Florida,” Suzanne said, “and you keep driving a few more hours west, and you go from this to a blizzard.”

Such is our bipolar Kansas weather.

The best birthday gift I get every year in April is from Mother Nature, who typically has the trees hung with green, and a bed of fresh, green grass laid just in time.  She has only forgotten my birthday a few times, and the gift shows up a little late.

I love green, which is why I keep it alive in my home year round:

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I learned this from Mom and Gail.  I remember a house full of plants as I grew up, and Gail always had her home green inside too, ever since I can remember.   She still does.

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Gail bequeathed this behemoth plant to me after she closed her donut shop.  She didn’t have space for it in her house.  It seems to like it by my window.

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The dull, lifeless brown outside is made slightly more bearable by houseplants.  Suzanne claims no talent at keeping plants alive indoors, so she doesn’t try.

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The recent weather has me thinking about my absolute favorite weather.  Prior to this last blast, I had decided I loved the frigid cold.  As I age, I realize I like the extremes more.  Extremes like zero degrees.  At least, I thought I did.

Who was I kidding.

I have never wavered on the other extreme.  100 degrees is still my favorite.  I would take it any day, and the zero temps had me longing for it.

My husband Mark told me the story of a spring/summer building project he supervised for a government agency a few years ago.  It was managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and the engineer for this project was from Maryland. When it became windy, this engineer produced his anemometer, a tool for measuring wind speed in MPH.  According to his interpretation, any wind speed past 22 MPH was ruled too fast for safety, and the project would have to wait until the wind receded.  Any equipment that was in the air—such as a telescoping lift—could not be used.  Mark quickly showed him the government-issued OSHA regulations posted right on the lift that allowed use with wind speeds up to 40 MPH.  Further, in the most functional illustration, Mark quickly let him know that he would be happy to stay home—with pay—on these windy days, and the project may eventually get done in the next few years, instead of the next few months.

The show went on, and the anemometer was never seen again.

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Apparently there is a weather-related Bermuda triangle in western Kansas.

Mark told me another story about a trip home from his grandparents on Christmas day when he was about ten years old, not far from where Gail now lives.

The snow was so heavy, Dad had to open the car door to check to lines on the highway every few minutes to make sure he was still driving between them.”

Suzanne and I were recalling a trip very close to that same place we took several years ago.  We were traveling west to meet Gail in early March for our annual Colorado trip.  There was no prediction that we knew of, but we encountered a freak, brief mini-blizzard about an hour from Gail’s house.  The snow became heavy, deep and slushy, as the temperature hovered just below 32 degrees.  We struggled to see the road ahead (we didn’t have to open the door to see the lines, though).  We called Gail, and she didn’t believe us because the sun was shining there.

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“Every winter has the sun within its heart.”

I put Steve Winwood on as I sat down to wrap this post up; anticipating his show in my small city just five weeks from tonight.  These lyrics jumped out at me.

Today, the predicted high was 46 degrees with sun.  “I can live with that,” I thought.  Hoping it would be true, I hung my laundry out this morning.  So far, it hasn’t climbed much above freezing, and as I write, I see the sun trying to poke out to tease me, because now it is gone again.

The coldest, cruelest winter days always bring hope.  I have survived 50 Kansas winters—I spent one in Pennsylvania–and I will survive more as long as I am here.  This is home, and I have made peace with it—most days.  Spring springs with green and hope, and I always find myself in a higher place when that happens.

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It’s not too early to start Christmas shopping for those perfect gifts that I always find for Suzanne and Gail.  Perhaps this year it will be an anemometer.

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