It’s not the cold that’s the hardest. My mother watches the weather up this way. She never wanted cable TV until I moved up here. I think it’s just so she can watch the weather channel and worry that her daughter is going to freeze solid. There is always some kind of disaster about to happen, she’s been seeing them and expecting them all her life. I used to try to point out that none of those terrible things she was so worried about had never happened, that life had been pretty good, especially now that she and my father are down in Texas, where it’s warm, although god, them being in Houston is about as wrong as me being up here in North Dakota. My mother can’t actually see the weather up here in Jericho, where it can get a lot cold than Fargo or whatever she can see. Still, I get calls. “Oh my god Sarah it’s so cold up there how can you stand it make sure you don’t go outside!” That’s how she talks, all breathless and no breaks.
So many of those coldest days are sunny days, though. It’s so cold the air sparkles like it’s filled with crystals. I tried to photograph it the first winter I was here, but it seems to be something the camera doesn’t see. Sometimes I just go out in the car and stop near a line of trees that are all jeweled like that, and just look. It’s so quiet. I’d like to turn off the car and really enjoy the quiet, but the car would probably be freezing in a minute and I’d be worried it wouldn’t start back up. That’s silly, but I guess some of my mother’s panic and distrust have worn off. Just enough that I can keep a good therapist in work.
The hard days are the days like this, when the clouds stuff the light and they hang low over the trees, just a heavy gray over the day. It’s hard to even get out of bed. I don’t know how people here do it, actually. Everybody here works so hard, work all the time. A lot of the people who are regulars at the cafe do two or three things, run their farms that don’t make any money any more, work at the plant, do construction work for people. I felt sorry for myself working seven days a week but it seems pretty normal out here. I don’t know how they do it, especially with the day hanging down dark and dampening everything.
Back in Boston, Erik and I had a car once. It’s stupid to have a car but it was one of those rare times Erik had a job, although he probably didn’t have it very long, and it was out west somewhere, I forget, and the buses didn’t really work. It was an old junk Japanese economy car, something that hadn’t cost anything when it was new and now it was beyond wrecked. It leaked a little, the engine was loud. It didn’t quite shift into one gear. The passenger mirror had been snapped off. It had rust all over. The thing that got to me, though, was the ceiling inside, the fabric they sew up into the roof or however they do it. Usually it’s all snug and tight, but this just hung down all over, almost in tatters. You’d get in the car and it would be draping down over you. God that was depressing, I hated riding in that car. That’s what I think of when the winter days hang down like that, that terrible car. When I wake up and I look out the back door in the dark and see the sky low like that, I just want to go back to bed.