It’s cold in space…and in Iowa

We have had a lovely fall here in n.w. Iowa. Sunny days, cool nights, brightly colored leaves that slowly fell to carpet the sidewalks with a satisfying crunch beneath my sneakers. Mornings have been jacket weather for some weeks, but afternoons have required only a sweatshirt, if that. I love me some Iowa autumn.

For a month or so, I’ve been asking various students and colleagues about Iowa winters, and the most common responses I’ve received are 1) a quiet, throaty chuckle and 2) a comment that the worst part is the wind. Yesterday winter came to Storm Lake and I’m here to tell you, neither the chucklers nor the windies prepared me for anything like this.

First, calling the wind "bad" is an understatement that ranks with FEMA’s early characterization of Hurricane Katrina, and I say this as one who lived with the yearly March gusts of Reno, Nevada, where the wind howls over the Sierra snowpack and screams down the valley and through the artificial canyons of the downtown casino buildings. The cold wind here in Storm Lake scours through town like Mother Nature’s own frigid brillo pad, intent on scraping cheeks and chins and noses and knuckles down to the very bone.

The other thing about this nw Iowa winter is the way it arrived: instantaneously. One day I’m wondering if I really need a light jacket for my afternoon walk and the next day — literally — snow is falling. And while the snow itself was picturesque, when it stopped the wind started up and blew it crosswise all over town and into my face no matter which direction I turned. That same wind is still blowing, and I’m starting to wonder if it will continue through the next millennium.

I once read a short story about a woman living in a sod house on the prairie. The constant wind drove her mad and she killed her family and gave herself to the wolves. This makes a lot more sense to me now; it’s probably nice and warm and, most importantly, non-windy, in a wolf’s stomach.

In the absence of wolves, however, the best I can do is knit myself a hat. I’m making it fast, and I’ll post some pics when done. Until it’s complete, maybe I’ll tie the cats nose-to-tail and wear them on my head. What’s that you say? The wind might be driving me mad? Nonsense. Mad would be wearing Zeke on my head — he’s too small to warm much more than an ear.

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