It’s interesting how the weather has accommodated our leisure time the past few weeks. It seems to get warmer as the weekend descends on us, then dropping into freeze-your-nose-hair temps when the work week resumes. It’s very considerate for weekend planning. I climbed the large maple tree in our back yard on Sunday, using my tree climbing gear, and cut down a big dead branch with a hand saw. It was nice to be up in the canopy of a tree again, but it made me long for an adventure in a larger tree that wasn’t so occupied with chore-like labor. But, even when I’m up mostly to prune dead branches, I find these moments of stillness and peace up there. It’s a unique point of view, and it’s pretty remarkable how many people pass and don’t notice that there’s a dude in a tree.
The cold has made walking to campus and other errand places a test of stamina. On a few days this week, I’ve felt my mustache and nose hairs freeze over in times I wasn’t even aware they were wet. I guess there’s just enough moisture in my breath or snot in my nose to freeze them solid, which is fine by me–then I don’t have to wipe my nose. During days like these I think about the people living in Alaska or Siberia and wonder how they manage. Even the people who lived in this area before every building was heated. When a few days of below freezing temps start to test my endurance, I wonder if I would get used to it if it was just daily life, or I am just a wiener compared to all those other people.
This is my second week in a row of receiving proselytization from a well-intentioned religious person trying to save my soul. This time I was in Pogue Library (my favorite place to go on campus) when I guy in a thick dark blue coat and one of those fuzzy hats with ear flaps asked my about Bennie Purcell, a former tennis player/coach from Murray State. I’m not exactly an expert on Murray State sports, so I found him on goodsearch. He also asked about a former basketball star too. He seemed slightly amazed that I could pull the information up that fast. He introduced himself as Bille Joe, then told me he was a Mormon and went into the questions about my religious affiliation. He caught himself several times and stopped his sales pitch. He said multiple times, “we’re free to believe what we want, right?” I talked to him about Chicago, where he had lived for a while. He told me a story of how he somehow ended up in a bus station in Cottage Grove, and a stranger walked up to him and said he had been waiting for him. He had been told in a dream that he would meet him. From there, he became a preacher for the Mormon church. Billie Joe couldn’t hear very well, so I often had to repeat what I was saying, but I continued to talk and engage him in conversation. I find it really interesting to hear the stories people have to tell. I wonder what these religious types are thinking about me when they approach me. They have no idea that I’ve probably spoken about Christ and love more than they have. That I’ve welcomed thousands and cared for them and counseled them. Billie Joe didn’t know that I’m interested in religion in general, and that I already knew his faith tells that Christ came to the new world. I know who Brigham Young and Joseph Smith were. I wonder if that would change these conversations I keep finding myself in as of late.
One thing the cold has really brought on with a vengeance is static electricity. I guess the fact that I’m wearing more fleecy things encourages the small lightening bolts that shoot into my fingers every time I touch something metal. It’s getting to the point of being painful sometimes. When I’m listening to my ear buds and folding laundry, I’ll feel little shocks coming into my ears. I wonder if this small bit of electricity might be therapeutic like that machine they hook you up to at the chiropractor. I wonder what it is that makes the air so much more electric in these times. I’m sure a Junior High science teacher could tell me.
After I cut the large maple branch down, I used my hand saw to cut the branch into more manageable piece that would could use in our fire pit later. With one large piece that I had cut through partially, I lifted it to throw it on the ground and break it the rest of the way. When I released it, my wedding ring flew off into the yard, covered in leaves. The cold makes my fingers shrink faster than it does my tungsten ring, so I’ll even have it fall off in my pocket sometimes. Allyson came out to find me on my hands and knees, barefooted, looking for my most important piece of jewelry. I thought I might have to call my dad to come with his metal detector or that some day mowing the lawn months from now I would come across it. I had this great sense of disappointment, knowing it was out there but that I could not see it. All I needed was just a glimmer, just seeing the light off the silver for a moment out of the corner of my eye, and it would be on my finger again. And, as we moved the leaves away, that was all it took.
Light, electricity, energy it’s moving all around us–and maybe the fact that it’s cold is making us even more aware of it. Walking home last night, I looked up in the sky at the perfect moment to see a shooting star fall right into the opening of the sky between two buildings. How interesting it is when paths cross like that–when you are just in a spot the electricity chooses you or the light glimmers in your eye. Sometimes it’s pleasant, sometimes it’s painful, sometimes we’re not sure. But, each one reminds us that we’re alive here and that something powerful is happening. As he left the library, Billie Joe said he wanted me and everyone to know that Billie Joe loves them (he assured me he wasn’t gay, and I laughed inside). Then he said something that I’ve thought about a little since then. He said, “I want you to know this happened. I want you to know it was real.” And I said, “I think it was.”