“It’s 33, do you think I’ll be too hot if I wear my ski jacket?” This is the question I asked my husband over the weekend when we decided to go tubing. The weather was too nice to pass up.”
“Nah. I think you’ll be okay. You can always take it off if it’s too much,” he replied.
After two trips down and back up the hill (pulling the tube behind me with our two-year-old inside), I was sweating and tossed my coat aside.
There is little in life more disorienting to my body than a Hot Dish winter. Between the months of October and April I live in a state of utter confusion. My body goes from urgently bemoaning the arrival of a “deathly chill” when the overnight low first touches 40˚, to quickly declaring that coats are a nuisance if it’s above 15˚F. The reality of wanting a parka on a 50˚ October day, and a tank top on a 50˚ April day is the lunacy we live in.
On October 15, I woke up, immediately complained of being, “freezing,” then proceeded to insist I could not get out of bed because of the cold.
In the frigid weather (after sunset, it was a ghastly 45˚), I bundled up in a puffer coat and hat when our family headed to the annual Pumpkin Walk at the Woodland Trail.
By the end of the walk, I cursed myself for not wearing warmer socks and snow boots. After all, this was misery after the warm days that had lingered well into fall. On the way back to the car, I nodded in solidarity when someone mentioned the coming winter. “I heard this is going to be a harsh winter,” he says. “Last year was so mild.”
Again, I nodded. Part of polite conversation in the fall always includes recalling how mild the previous winter was, and a prediction that the coming winter will be a doozy.
No matter what, last winter was always mild.
Fast forward to November.
Four short weeks later, I helped my littlest into his boots, and shrugged on my fleece-lined flannel shirt. Although I put hats on the boys, I skipped wearing one of my own. God gave me thick hair for a reason, right? I save the hat for a day with a sub-zero windchill.
We were headed to the Festival of Trees, and it was a gorgeous day. Sunny. High of 19˚.
Jacket weather if there ever has been such a thing.
That coat from October? Soon after the Pumpkin Walk it was relegated to a closet, reserved for days in the single digits.
The transition from unbearably cold, to full-of-excuses not to wear a coat happens surprisingly quickly. Even for those of us who aren’t from around here. One day we can’t stand the chill in the air. The next, it’s inconvenient to wear a coat because it “restricts our shoulders” in the car, or “we’ll just take it off” when we arrive at Target, or we’ll “only be outside for a minute or two.”
Soon enough 40˚ days will return, and we’ll all celebrate the arrival of T-shirt weather. At the first glimpse of 50˚ day, we’ll unearth our tank tops, and eagerly begin planning trips to “The Lake.”
I’ve learned that life in Hot Dish Land, is all about perspective. Around here that perspective can change faster than a North Dakotan can correct an outsider on the pronunciation of “Sakakawea.” (Pro tip, they’ll know you’re not local if you say it sa-kuh-juh-wee-uh.)
While it can be disorienting, it’s also comforting. Although that first cold day is shocking, we can acclimate. These days remind me that humans are resilient, and possess a power to adjust—to shift our perspective. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes subconsciously.
With practice, with time, what seems unbearable one day may eventually become not-so-bad. If we can find the not-so-bad, who’s to say we can’t find the good? If we can shift our perspective to think that January in Hot Dish Land is “jacket weather,” there’s nothing we can’t handle.
I’ll even throw in a couple bonus points if we can laugh along the way. Just remember, when it’s all said and done, we’ll look back and declare that this was “a mild winter.”
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