Musings, North Dakota Living

Small Talk

We’ve all been through it. A conversation lulls; an awkward silence ensues. What do I say next? we wonder, so naturally, we fall back on the weather: “I heard there is a storm coming this weekend,” or, “Can you believe how warm it is for December?” But here in the Northern Plains during the long, cold winter months, weather is more than just small talk. We talk about the weather with a little touch of pride. Where else do grandparents drive 60 miles an hour through raging blizzards without batting an eye?

I just adore winter. Winter is awesome. I love the extremities, and North Dakota always goes all out in that regard. Right now as I write, it is -2 degrees outside. Of course, sometimes winter can be a real pain in the arse. I have been knocked out for weeks with some type of horrible flu of death/evil cold virus/muscle-weakening disease of wicked proportions. Twice last week, I rolled in to school from my 12-mile drive a half hour late, right when the first bell was ringing, because pickups were sliding all over the highways. Two nights ago, I came home from dinner in town with friends to find that I couldn’t see the edge of my highway through the angry swirling snowflakes storming across the road. I went by pure instinct, ended up on the shoulder only once and breathed a sigh of relief when I thought I saw the blurry edges of the mailbox marking the driveway.

Although it was below zero after school on Friday, I grabbed my camera and trudged through the snow to capture a few pictures before the light faded and my fingers froze off. I was supposed to be at school taking tickets for a boys basketball game, but the opposing team couldn’t make it through the blizzard and the game was postponed. So I took advantage of my rare opportunity to be home before sunset and captured just a little taste of the extremities around me.

Drivers around here lately have been seeing a lot of this:


Does this look like a desolate wasteland? Ok, yes, right now it pretty much looks like the movie Fargo. I still like it, though. And I’m not the only one.

Lucy plays in the snow:


Blackjack rolls in the snow:


Chico explores in the snow:


And Jake eats horse poop in the snow. Everyone is happy!


And the photographer? Well, a little winter exploring always puts a smile on my face. Even if it’s a bit of a frozen one.


The weather might be just small talk, but when it’s this extreme, it’s a little more than that. It’s a bonding experience with people around us going through the same thing, and with our animals out playing in the snow. If we can survive this, and if we can all make it spring together, then we can worry about what to talk about next.

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