When we first told our family that we were moving to Iowa, my grandpa asked me if I knew that Iowa gets “weather”. That wasn’t the first time we were asked that question, nor was it the last. Even when we finally did make the move, well-meaning Midwesterners asked us if we’d experienced Iowa winters yet. When we said no, not yet, they’d kind of nod and smile with a knowing gleam in their eye. Just you wait, sonny, that look said. You’ll see.
Yeah, Iowa gets “weather”. Summer brought its humid downpours and electrical storms and straight-line winds. But they eventually gave way to an almost uncanny autumn, where temperatures were more than pleasant. It was almost unfair how beautiful the weather was just a month ago, when midday temperatures were still in the high sixties!
Now comes winter with its hoary vengeance. The temps have plummeted and the ground has essentially fossilized with a frozen rigor mortis. Everything is white with crystalized snow. Yesterday arctic winds drove the windchill down to thirty below, and we watched as drifting tufts of snow rolled across the fields like waves. It was kind of amazing.
Somewhere a seasoned Midwesterner is looking out their window with a gleam in their eye. He’s grinning, I think.
So we got a little “weather”. To be fair, half the country got blasted with a version of this storm. So the weather fairy seems to be sprinkling her wares less judiciously than perhaps some would care for. However, thirty below wind scald is an all time new thing for this native Oregonian. But it didn’t keep me inside. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t wait to get out in it and mess around.
Yesterday would have been out of the question. The wind was bitter cold and almost dangerous if exposed to it for any length of time. But the sun was out this morning and all was calm. Sometime in the night the clouds scuttled off and the sky was scrubbed clean. There was a kind of peace across the land that only a freshly fallen snow at the wake of a storm can bring.
I took the dogs out and puttered around the property for a while, basking in the solitude, experiencing the bone chilling cold of Iowa winter really for the first time. There’s something incredible about fresh, unmolested snow. Banks of white that kind of soften the otherwise hard angles of the trees and the buildings at the point where they crash into the earth and stab into the sky. And there is a beauty in that breath-stealing chill and how it leaves its mark upon the earth, like time itself has frozen still.
I took pictures as I walked and while the dogs scavenged ahead of me. While I walked, I thought about how strange this place can be, and how strange it is that we are even here. What’s more, I thought about how strange a thing it is that we are enjoying it all. All of it. Every part. I think maybe there were loved ones that we left behind that had thought, maybe even hoped, that wouldn’t be the case. That’s a sad thought, actually, to consider. But most likely true.
This has been a year of changing seasons. Not a turning of the page or even another chapter, but more like a whole new book. Written in different language. Its funny, because at the beginning of this year I had the sense that 2016 would turn out to be a year of change, but I had no clue what that could possibly mean.
But sometimes we need our lives to dramatically change to remind us of the things that are truly important. We certainly have come through some terrible things this year, but we’ve experienced good things too. Great things.
Iowa may not be heaven, but it has still become something transcendent for me. More than an ideology. More than a place. Its become a medium for reflection and growth. This place, with all its quirky unfamiliarity, has become a living and personal therapy for me. And the changes that have followed us since moving here, personal and professional, have been the best kind of counsel. Stepping outside of what is comfortable and facing the unknown encourages the only kind of evolution that matters. Evolution of the heart.
There will be weather. But instead of hiding away, instead of ignoring what I can’t control, I want to go out and be in the middle of it. I want to be exposed by it. Because that’s where I am challenged. That’s where I am brought closer to where I want to be.
And the storms don’t last anyway. If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far from living in Iowa. If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and it’ll change.