Fahrenheit -or- Celsius: forty below is forty below.

A lot has befallen us since I last posted. For one, as of February 19, Ellen has a new knee. Up to a short while ago, she was doing at least as well as can be expected – until she fell yesterday evening. You know the routine, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” And I couldn’t lift her. Two enormous firemen came over, raised her to a sitting position, then up and I scooted a chair under her. Then she got to her feet all by herself and all was well. Except the heart rate is still slowing bit by bit. Gosh. Ya never know, ya know?

The weather outside is frightful, has been frightful for several weeks. We have set an all time record for snow in February and teased out record low temperatures, overnight and daytime. The two freeways south of the Cities, I-35 and I-94 were closed over the weekend due to blowing, drifting snow and the roads were lined with trapped motorists and semi-drivers, the last of them only rescued Monday morning. God help the ones not stopping frequently to top off gas tanks, because the real air temps have been in the single digits and you can’t stay warm in a Minnesota winter inside a dead car. More snow tonight – and again this weekend, though by then we’ll be out of range to top the new record snowfalls for February. By the way, ordinarily our average daytime temperatures have started to rise above freezing. Yesterday afternoon we were forty degrees below that. And yet, For Sale signs are not popping up all over the Twin Cities.

Next? My muse has gone south again. Wish I could follow.

Oh, and exactly seven days ago I woke up very sick. Haven’t thrown up that hard since – maybe ever. Hurt myself. Ellen had her knee replaced later that morning, and I couldn’t be at the hospital with her. Sick all week, couldn’t eat, and hurting. A friend came over Sunday night and was alarmed, said I was dehydrated, lifted the skin on the back of my hand and it stayed up, like a little tent. She kept insisting I drink fluids. I protested, my stomach hurt and I’d throw it up again, but she brought a ginger drink and I kept it down, and then lime-flavored water, then plain water – and suddenly it was like I woke up. I’d been sitting huddled in a recliner, trying to get the strength to go to bed, and suddenly I felt a whole, whole lot better. Ellen, adrift on pain meds in the bedroom, had no idea I was in trouble. God bless Elizabeth. But I’m going to the doctor today, because my stomach is still sore. I told Elizabeth I think I tried to throw up my esophagus.

We went to Virginia – Minnesota, that is. on Valentine’s Day. You think it’s cold down here? It’s like tropical by comparison. But the crowd at the public library (fifty people!) was sweet, and the tea treats fancy as well as delicious. We started to drive home right after the talk, which ended around three, but it had begin to snow hard and blow harder. Couldn’t see the road, which kept trying to slip away from under our tires. No one else was stupid enough to be out with us. Within ten miles we became frightened and groped our way back. Next morning was bright and sunny and unbelievably cold, forty below cold. With incredible efficiency the roads had been cleared, so no trouble driving home. There is the most enormous hole on the edge of Virginia, this being the Iron Range and miners long taking the ore right off the top, though trees are starting to cover the scars. You could put the whole town in that hole with room left over for the Statue of Liberty, maybe just her torch sticking out the top. It’s possible your first car’s shell came out of that hole. I’d like to go back up there in the summer and explore.

Many long years ago I started amusing myself on long road journeys by looking for handsome Christmas trees, wishing I could mark them and come back to harvest one or two. Then, later, I started picking out those stubby, long-needled ones near the road verges, broad and crooked, and thought how it would take a special stand to keep it upright and how sophisticated a Christmas tree it would make. This year I fell in love again with lodge-pole pines, very tall and narrow, rising like steeples from among other trees, then noticed how sometimes they are bent or have one limb sticking out near the top, or no limbs on one side, or split into two stems. What fun to have a Charlie Brown tree! And then I thought to start a Christmas tree company, call it The Last Tree (on the Lot) and sell them for hundreds of dollars – maybe duplicate the worst/best of them because maybe topping a pine tree kills it (does it?) and only the last four or six feet of these thirty or forty-foot trees would do. So how to harvest them? But wouldn’t it be fun? I’d love to have a really twisted tree because in a curious way they are beautiful works of art. Funny the things to occupy the mind in the passenger seat on a long road trip. Lodge pole pines are rare down here in the Cities but extremely common as you go north. Unforgettable once you see them. Most of them are elegantly slim and beautiful, but here and there: Charlie Brown!

I’m having trouble posting this. I’m back from the doctor; I’m going to be fine, try not to cough and aggravate my bruised diaphragm.

See the above? My creativity is doing just fine – except writing crime fiction. Durn.

(Originally written Feb. 28. Here we are at March 12th, and the weather is no better, though somewhat warmer.)

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