I should know by now that everything is going to change. When the sun starts staying under longer in the mornings and dropping low earlier in the evenings, when the skies cloud over and fogs roll in, when the air feels frigid and my fingers become numb, when I feel as if a lead weight sits on my chest…
This year, unlike most years, winter came hard and fast, and summer lasted unnaturally long and hot. Over a period of four months, I soaked in the sun’s vitamin D and spent most everyday outdoors, active, interacting with others. My clothes were so steeped in sweat, no detergent could get the odor out, so we just gave up. Hopefully this new fragrance of mine was becoming. My usually pale skin had accrued a tawny hue, dotted with “sun damage” that elevated my cute factor and egged on the misconception of my unadulterated youth. While living on the road for four months came with its disadvantages to be sure, I don’t think I could have known that running across the country to keep pace with the sun and heat could have done me so good.
See November 5th, on a boat on the edge of the waters where the Great River meets the Gulf of Mexico—75 degrees Fahrenheit and sun brilliant up above. This was one of the three coldest—yes coldest—days of our four month journey down the spine of the country.
November 6th, departure north from Louisiana. 1,000 some odd miles later the temperature had dropped forty degrees and the sun was hiding. Leaves were on the ground, our first taste of the Fall season, and soon to be our last.
November 7th, final day of travel toward the arctic tundra of our home in Minnesota. At a bathroom stop in Iowa, the temperature readout shows 19 degrees. I am in shorts.
900 miles later, that evening around 5:30pm we arrived home. It was sweet, and it was warm inside. And for a few days, I was still reeling off the momentum and energy of the residual vitamin D and the appearance of that tan when I looked at myself in the mirror… Then things got slippery, both outside with the snow and ice and inside of myself—in that way where you are not sure who you are or who you have become in that space of coming and going. The pat routine of wake up, run the distance, listen to the people, write it all down, sleep, and do it all again had become my rhythm for 120 days, and now I was all out of step.
Tom dove into jigsaw puzzles. I think he completed three in the week before he went back to his office.
I moved furniture, attempting to reorganize the house in a way that would suit my new avocation—storytelling. I don’t doubt that I am a storyteller, a writer even, but am I still a dancer, a choreographer, a visual artist, an activist and advocate? Why can’t I distill all these labels into one that makes sense not only to others but also myself?
I know it’s a luxury to even have the time to write these thoughts, think these thoughts. It’s a great privilege to have spent the last four months listening to people, and now I have a responsibility to make that matter.
The thought I started with here, though, and wanting to get back to that now, is that when the winter Monster comes, the work inevitably changes. What I can do changes. I cannot be a super athlete and run everyday and ride everyday. I cannot shake this pressure on my chest. But I can listen to these feelings, these sensations, like I listened to so many people these last months, and I can NOT judge, I can NOT put up a wall. Instead I can care and connect and respond to what I have to give today. Each day. Knowing that it will again change tomorrow, and next season, and when the mornings begin earlier and the days last longer, when I can feel the heat on my skin once again.