Winter Wünderkind

I am now deep in the throes of my third winter in Iowa, friends and neighbors. It’s been an unremitting schedule of awful, marked by long stretches of daytime high temperatures in the single digits and wind chills in the double digits below zero. I learned the term “Polar Vortex,” and used it in conversation without pointing out that it sounded like a sex game for Arctic explorers. It was either a snowy landscape, or a screenshot of a weather forecast that might have come from Hoth. I think we can agree that I made the right call.

Between an unreasonable number of regular snowfalls, we’ve been treated to surprise storms that have swept in without warning to snarl traffic for hours, and a few random days where the temperature spiked near 50°F, teasing us with a glimpse of spring before sneaking up behind us and trying to drown us in freezing slush. On more than on occasion schools have been cancelled not by snow, but because the projected wind chill was considered life-threatening. Our front yard looks like it could comfortably support a whole family of yeti, and we’re expecting to be sweeping snowmelt off the sidewalk on Independence Day.

Despite the grinding cold and the socks that are always damp and the toes that never quite thaw, I can’t help feeling oddly, incongruously fortunate. Not only because I have a warm, cozy house (and a wonderful woman and two football-sized lumps of feline fluff with whom to share it), but because I’ve had the ridiculous good luck to be eased into it.

My first winter was really only a slight hiccup between fall and spring. It only snowed a handful of times, and it was never cold enough that walking to work was a major hassle. I can’t count how many times I was told that I’d picked the best possible year to move to the Midwest. Last year was incrementally worse: more snow, colder temperatures, and significantly less snickering about the “realness” of my Iowa winter experience.

This winter has been a constant shovelful of snow in the junk, but if I’d gone through it only a few months after moving here, I might have been tempted to lay down in front of a snowplow and hope being crushed to death might feel slightly warmer. As it is, I’m drastically uncomfortable, but I feel like I’ve worked up (or down) to it. I’ve had some time to toughen up, and it’s made this year a lot easier to handle. So consider this a vague and grudging expression of gratitude.

And if it gets much worse next year, look for my wallet in the red smear behind a salt truck.