There’s a need to hurry, as time is running out and the better part of the day has been spent at work indoors. At home, it’s four in the afternoon and little dog Harley sniffs the grass, and not the absent snow, each time after he catches the ball I toss high in the air. The sun is low but still warm. Spinner, the neighbor rat terrier wanders up to the fence. The two little dogs exchange sniffs and then chase each other the length of the fence line. Neighbor Dale walks over after admiring his handiwork, the finishing touches on the addition to his garage. It’s work he was prepared to do, come freezing temps or today’s 50 above. Now he and Spinner are off to take a trip with his nephew to shop for a flat screen TV. It’s shopping weather. Equally inspired by the weather, I call Tory, who is still at work, to let her know I’m walking the two and a half miles to Culvers and she should meet me there for supper.
Along the walking path, a couple up ahead looks overdressed in fall outerwear. The woman with a wool-knit cap sets the pace while the bearded man, wearing a heavy jacket, carries a walking stick – a headless shaft of a driver – whacking dead weeds standing at attention along the trail. I jaywalk across a none-ice-packed intersection where traffic travels with a summer-like buzz. I cut through the snowless lawns of commercial businesses, watching fellow working stiffs escape from their cells. I jaywalk again – don’t really care for crosswalks and streetlights – across a four-lane boulevard, just inside the blind spot of a squad car parked off the street and behind bare bushes, waiting to take advantage of the nice weather to hand out tickets to speeders and jaywalkers.
The shadows are already growing long, as I catch up to and pass an old-timer out for a stroll while others walk their dogs or march their children up and down the sidewalks. Fresh spring air in the dead of winter is a rare commodity, like dry matches in Jack London’s tale To Build A Fire.
Forty minutes later, Tory and I are at Culvers enjoying burgers and shakes, a meal fit for warm-weather lollygagging and self-reflection. We sit in a section of mostly elderly people, away from the lively chatter of children who must have a false sense of the season. I know otherwise, but pretend, all the same, that it’s springtime in Minnesota. It’s growing dark, but, again, I just pretend my wife and I are out for a late evening snack, so instead of 5 o’clock, I pretend it’s closer to 8 o’clock. There’s nothing wrong with pretending, especially when it concerns hiding from the conspiring elements of winter huddled along the U.S.-Canadian border.
That was two days ago. The slimmest chance of an early spring has come and gone. Now there’s a biting wind creating a wind chill of near 0 this morning. And on the radio, McDonald’s is advertising a buy-one-get-one of some gut rot whenever the temp is below 0. A choice between a full price meal at Culvers and a temp of 50 above versus McD’s sadistic promotion of cold weather and extra fat grams for free? Sounds like a no-brainer to me.