Tundra, Day 3

Went for a walk yesterday in McKennen Park in -15F windchill. While there I began to mentally document several interesting things that were happening all around me. Firstly, untouched snow seems to always be deeper than it looks, especially on unfamiliar terrain. My boots are super-sweet Sorels and being well-socked the toes stayed warm but the blue jeans (wasn’t wearing long johns) started to get wet and freeze around the hem as each step sank in more than I expected. Looking down as I walked, the wind would pick up, propelling light topsnow across the surface. I would move forward, but the ground would move laterally beneath me. Icy pellets swept into depressions and up and over the walkway berm, flaring in eccentric flourishes over the frozen park meadowland. It was easy for me to relate at that point to the disorientation travelers feel crossing a featureless ice field. Looking backward, the footsteps I’d just laid were developing rounded edges and filling in. It would be impossible without a compass to stay on course in a more remote setting. It doesn’t matter in which direction you walk because the ground moves with wind…

And then you start thinking about how cold you are. Rather, you start noticing which parts of you are beginning to freeze. For me, with jeans on, it was my knees that went first. With each step they rubbed against thin denim, and soon began to sting. I recorded this verbally. A little surprised at myself, I began jabbering into my scarf, vocalizing events as they happened. The fingers were next, but only of the right hand as it was holding the camera. The wind bit straight through my Thinsulate gloves. It also pinpointed the chinks in my armor, the widest of which being between the underside of my scarf and my jacket’s collar. Frozen air lashed my neck and I hunched myshoulders and tucked my chin like a turtle. My knees, meanwhile, had started to go numb.

I couldn’t feel them anymore, and the cold had moved up my legs. The fronts of my thighs were prickling, but my shins were alright. I hadn’t gotten any pictures of note and so I turned home, muttering the entire way. The jaunt from front to back lasted a whole 30 minutes.

Later in the afternoon we went shopping for Christmas gifts.

Dave and Debbie went to Menards for awhile, and I made the remaining crew some spaghetti with meat sauce. Eating exhausted Travis and myself and Megan had been exhausted to begin with, so without doing any dishes we all went to lay down. Meg and I woke up awhile later, at 9 or something, as the elders returned. We opened some expensive champagne and then a bottle of zinfandel. Before we knew it midnight had passed and it was two in the morning, and so we all crashed for the night. Before we closed the door, Dave asked us politely to clean up after ourselves if we decide to cook, and we tiredly agreed. In the morning, there was still talk of the dishes thing and after breakfast he washed them himself. My boss Kim, when I had told her how long I’d be in SD, rolled her eyes and with warned me against it. I suppose that no matter how conscientious a guest or host you are, extra people always end up feeling burdensome, at least to some degree.

Today has been slow. I’m watching survival shows on teevee and Meg’s stress is a constant low hum in the back of my mind. Presently I find myself alone in their basement as the world shuffles around above me. Meg wants to visit some friends today, and I’m going to offer to stay in this hole away from everyone so that she can have some time to herself. What will I do? I don’t know. I’m downloading Adobe CS4 and will battle with installing it, I guess. I have a distinct feeling that I will look back upon this trip as a mistake. I hope I’m wrong.

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One response to “Tundra, Day 3

  1. Oh darling, -15 degrees. It gets worse, too. A few years ago in Beloit it was -17, without windchill. With, it was -30. I’m sure it’s similar in SD around Mid-January.

    But I love this cold.

    *hugs you*

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