Monday, October 27, 2008

Sometimes It's That Simple

I fell into bed on Saturday night listening to the wind howl outside. It was chilly and the yard sounded restless. We both read in bed for some time before falling asleep, enjoying the silence inside that brought wild noises to our attention: cat fights and trees swaying. It sounded cold out there.

One of my favorite Garrison Keillor stories about Lake Wobegon marks this peculiar transition that happens when the weather gets cold in Minnesota. Suddenly we spend less time on our hair because it’s bound to be smushed by a hat or blown into a rat’s nest. We skimp on the make up because pale skin is too blatant to hide and deep freezes will leave snot-sicles you’ll have to wipe off anyway. In the cold of Minnesota, life is simplified to an animal instinct: we are either out there or in here.

When we’re out there we walk with our heads down into the wind, determined to get in here. And once we are in here, we’re just plain grateful. The little things don’t seem to bother us much because we are warm and safe, surviving and existing.

Last year I lived with my cousin, Haakon, and we listened to that story several times during the winter. He would crawl in his sleeping bag on the couch and I would bury my body in sweatpants, curled up in a chair with hot tea. We would relish the goodness of being in here. That Garrison Keillor story was on my mind on Sunday as the front doors flew open after church and people poured out into the sleet and mush. I was warm, standing in the narthex and draped with my alb. I was glad to be in here.

I drove out to camp for our Oktoberfest celebration, less than excited about being out there on the roads. The slush had everyone driving defensively and I was disappointed that a fall festival would send us inside. I parked and trudged up a hill, into the wind, to find the lodge. I squinted to see the lake blowing and leaves both turning and falling in all directions. How beautiful this place must be in all seasons - and how wonderful that I will be back find out!

I pulled open the door to the lodge and met the warmth. A table with hot cider and hot chocolate met me and kids ran by squealing. Families set up board games, people watched football, and children played ping pong in the basement. It was cozy in here, appreciated all the more by the journey out there. I fell into bed on Sunday night like I had the night before, listening for the wind and grateful for the winter to come and all the things it will simplify. It always does.

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