I usually wake up before my alarm goes off, even when I’ve set it very early. A farm boy’s trick, I think. We didn’t have alarm clocks when I was really young, but you wanted to be up and in your clothes and getting out the door by the time my father was up. He wasn’t exactly gentle getting the “shirkers” out of bed. I used to think I was good at waking up because I slept poorly, but last night I actually slept well, even with the wind shaking this garage around. I slept well even though I’d had a funny dream about Laura. It was like dreams I’ve had since she was little. She is always walking away from me, slowly. Not angry, as if we’ve fought, or because there’s a problem. Just getting further away. I’ve had those dreams since she was very young, and I realized after awhile that this was what being a father to her was like. She was always going to move further from me and my job was to help her do that, do that well. Once I started realizing that — and it wasn’t right away — I think she might have been in high school by that time — I stopped having those dreams much any more.
It had been a long time, but it came back last night. We were on a street, in New York, I think. I don’t have any idea of what a street in New York is like, just from things I’ve seen on TV, movies, and stories she used to tell me when she came home at holidays or when we talked on the phone. There were tall buildings, like apartment buildings, on each side of the street, and lots going on — people, little kids, old people, coming and going on the sidewalks, and trucks booming by, and horns honking. I must have been looking for her — well, like now, I guess — and she was halfway down the block, moving in and out of people. So I would catch a glimpse of her, her dark hair, the jacket she was wearing, a bright scarf hanging down her back below her hair. And then she’d disappear behind someone, so I couldn’t see her for a moment, someone coming the other way, or she’d step around someone just standing there on the sidewalk, talking. I was running behind her, trying to run through all of the people. She didn’t seem to be hurrying at all, but the further she went down the block the further she got away from me. But I wasn’t getting frantic. Maybe it’s because I’ve had this dream so many times, but I knew this is how it was. And then I couldn’t see her at all. I just stopped and watched the tangle of people going and coming up and down the block and I couldn’t see her and it was OK. I couldn’t do anything to catch up to her, maybe I would never see her again, maybe I will never see her again. I will miss her, I do miss her. But it’s OK.
So that’s what I was dreaming about when I woke up too early and heard the wind crashing the trees around out my window and I thought it was OK. (Chuckles softly.) I somehow knew the power was out, I didn’t even half to look at my clock. The temperature said −29 but I knew it would feel a lot colder, with all that wind. I put a lot on — I like to be outside in this weather, but I don’t really like to be cold. I broke through a pond one later winter day when I was young and I had to walk about two miles home in hard wind and that’s about as much freezing cold as I’d like for one life. There’s a wood stove in this place, thank God, so I got some wood going and was able to get some water boiling after awhile. I could tell there was no power on anywhere in town. I wondered how long it had been out.
So with some coffee in my belly and all that clothing on, you’d think I’d have been braced for it but when I opened the door the wind hit me hard, like slamming your body into a crusted snowbank. The air hurt my cheeks and got under my glasses. I hoped the power hadn’t been out long. I had plugged in the truck but if the power was out a long time it might be too cold to turn over. I was shivering when I got in it. It cranked pretty slowly at first, long slow heaves, but they finally resolved into turning and the engine came spitting to life. I was so glad of it I almost forgot to get out and unplug her, and I might have drove off dragging that long extension cord halfway out of town.
The wind was shaking the cab around as we came out the county roads. There were some big branches down in town I had to drive around but nothing out here. I drove with my lights off. It took forever for the heater to start warming up the truck but I was OK, out of that wind. It was overcast, the clouds all churning around low overhead, but you could start to see a bluish cast to the prairie and the scattered drifts of it in among the little ponds and furrows and hills. Winter’s a hard season here, but a good one, it puts this hard clarity on everything before the spring starts to green out everything like crazily and you’re temporarily seduced.