A Naughty Tease

For three glorious days, the earth sucked up snow as fast as the sun could melt it. We walked outside in sweatshirts ditching heavy jackets, hats, mittens, and boots. Buoyant, joyous, we scoured the roadside for signs of flowers. I picked pussywillows. Temperatures climbed to the seventies.

Yesterday, it rained all day. Any traces of winter that had lingered were gone. Wet-dirt scent, reminiscent of plowing and weeding, triggered nostalgic farm memories.

Today, a blizzard whipped horizontally past my windows dropping a white shroud over yesterday’s Spring.

This is Minnesota.

The nastiness outside gives me permission to light candles, cuddle in slouchy clothes, and do as close to nothing as possible. By nothing, I mean nothing that resembles work. Gazing at the blustering snow, reading, writing, pondering…these are acceptable pastimes for a day like today.

So I’m pondering…pondering the impact of the different environments I’ve experienced over the past twelve years.

In Ubud, Bali, eight degrees south of the equator, day and night were virtually equal parts dark and light – sunrise at 6:30 a.m. and sunset at 6:30 p.m. It varied by several minutes over the course of a year, but not much. Nestled in the foothills of volcanic Mt. Agung, the landscape was perpetually green and the air dripped humidity with two seasons: rainy and not quite so rainy. Balanced. Predictable. Easy. I never grew tired of the eternal youth of Bali, the jungle foliage, the sensory overload of sight, sound, and smell, and the kind, hospitable Balinese people.

Photo credit: Sharon Lyon

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, was the color of sand, except when the jacarandas bloomed bathing the city in violet. At twenty-one degrees north of the equator, and 6,135 feet above sea level, SMA was high and dry. The sun baked down during the day but come January and February, there was a bite to the evening air. The architecture, the people, the food, the mountaintop vistas, were extraordinary. But I found I didn’t resonate with the desert aesthetic, and I was never entirely certain that my presence was welcomed by the locals or merely tolerated.

Now I’m 46.7 degrees north of the equator and approximately 1,200 feet above sea level. I’m surrounded by family. I don’t need to wonder if I’m welcome. It’s a far different story, and so is the climate. I’d just gotten comfortable with summer when the leaves went crimson and left the trees naked. I blinked and the world turned white overnight. Snow accumulated in epic proportions, shifting and drifting, swirling whorls around the pines. Nights descended earlier and darkness delayed morning. Focused on getting my house habitable, months passed. Sometimes, I’d stop and marvel at the crystalline purity of blinding, bridal white.

Then, without warning, it was gone. In its place, brown remains of dead vegetation, nude, gray branches, and sticky, oozing, mud met the eyes as far as they could see.

Now, three days later….it’s back! Whiteness. Winter. Everywhere.

I’m glad I’ve experienced other climates and the customs and cultures they spawned. Bali felt young. San Miguel was ancient. Here, cycling through the seasons, I’m in touch with the passage of time: birth, growth, aging, death. I feel aligned and in tune with the reality of life’s terminal nature. It makes me more introspective than I already am – makes me treasure my time on this planet more than I already do, makes me grateful for every experience, blissful or traumatic, that contributed to the unusual path I’ve walked.

And…it makes me hungry! There’s something about cold and snow that generates a ravenous appetite! Out of necessity, I’m learning how to cook. I sort of knew the basics, once upon a time. But this climate requires more than tofu and salad. The body here needs starch and protein, fat, and sugar in quantities I haven’t seen on my plate in decades.

It’s an adjustment. Everything is. But if there’s one thing I have in spades, it’s flexibility. If there’s another thing, it’s determination to thrive where I’m planted. So now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go cook something.

Yesterday’s Gone

There was a song, Emmylou Harris sang it, or maybe it was Chad and Jeremy. It’s one of my favorites and the chorus goes like this, “…but that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.” Yesterday Minnesota was grey. Yesterday’s gone….

It snowed. Actually that is incorrect. It is snowing. Over a foot of heavy, wet, sticky stuff has accumulated and it’s still coming down. I’ll have to admit, there is something magical about the first snowfall, especially if it’s the kind, like this, that turns a drab leafless tree into a frosted confection. So I pour a steaming mug of coffee and sit down to watch. It is vastly more interesting than watching grass grow! A minute later I jump up and run for my camera. The cardinals have come out to play.


This sweet boy thinks he’s hiding, but his glorious crimson feathers against the whiteness shout his presence. Lady cardinal is in the bush with him and the pair of them take great pleasure flitting from branch to branch kicking up snow dust.

But I have places to go and people to see in spite of the weather. In Bali, whether it’s July or December, I can slip on a sundress and a pair of sandals and I’m out the door. Today I warily approach my closet, dreading the clothing ritual dictated by this climate.  I pull on a high-necked shirt and tights. First layer…check! Now what? Before that question finds an answer my neck starts to itch under the fabric scrunched tightly around it. I rip off the turtleneck and scratch furiously. Okay, how about a dress with the tights? I find a long-sleeved, knit number and slip it on just as the skin on my legs, sausaged into the tights, begins to crawl. Hiking up the dress I frantically peel off the tights and slather a handful of lotion on each leg. I briefly contemplate calling with some inane excuse to cancel and chuck the whole affair. But by now I’ve worked up an agitated lather and I’ll be darned if I’m going to let a little snow rattle my cage! Off with the dress.

I finally manage to pull myself together. Then adding to my layered ensemble a jacket, gloves, scarf and boots, I head out the door. First stop, World Street Kitchen, a new restaurant in Uptown.


World Street Kitchen Restaurant in Uptown, Minneapolis, MN

I lunch with Jessa and Dan, the quintessential Uptown pair suitably decked out in sensible garb. They treat me to the ‘Kitchen’s’ Crispy Tofu Burrito and I swear it tastes just like chicken. (All humor aside, it is to-die-for-delicious!) Then I treat them to a giant slice of double-layer-banana-cake-with-peanut-butter-cream-cheese-frosting. Exquisite!


While we make happy eating noises, a snow-plow truck tries to keep ahead of the still accumulating fluff on the street outside.


I’ve been invited to a Christmas production and my friends are picking me up at the restaurant. I’ve given them decent directions and they have just called to say they’re getting close. I zip up my jacket, wrap the scarf around my neck, pull on my gloves, say a quick ‘thank you and goodby,’ just as Dan spots a car slowing down. “There they are,” he says, and I race out the door. They have turned into the parking lot and I trot around the end of the building to see them slowly continuing on through the lot toward the alley. “Stop!” I yell, knowing full well they can’t possibly hear me. My trot becomes a fast jog as they turn into the alley and keep going. Now I’m in a flat out run, snow stinging my face, arms windmilling to keep my balance and boots slip-sliding on the icy tire tracks. “Sto000000p!” I yell again, and the car slides to an unsteady halt. They finally quit laughing and explain that they were afraid if they stopped they would get stuck. They apologize profusely for failing to notice my frantic pursuit.


Getting stuck is a valid concern. We pick our way across town past several vehicles stranded in snowbanks and one sitting with its tail on the guard rail and its front bumper laying a few feet away. But the concert is worth the effort. The full orchestra and two choirs, probably numbering close to 200 voices, nearly lift me from my seat. I am struck by the contrasts of this reality. Here I am in the midst of a mighty throng of people who share my Scandinavian heritage. The music is complex, melodic, familiar. But I find myself scanning the crowd looking for someone…different. Then I see him. He’s short, hidden in the back row. Of that vast company he’s the only one.

In the mountaintop Balinese villages I am the oddity, the pale moonface in a chocolate sea. Tonight his mahogany skin fills a lonesome corner of my heart. I breathe a silent ‘thank you’ for family and friends, for music and snow, and for someone different who unknowingly made the night extra special.


I think it was October when I started surfing the net for plane tickets to Bali. In December I began shopping for my tropical wardrobe. Now it’s March first and I leave in 13 days! I’m so ready! The thick, wet, slippery snowfall yesterday cinched it. This has been a mild winter so far, really quite tolerable. But the inconvenience that accompanies a heavy snowfall in the city triggered my impatience. As I skidded into the side of my car, unable to find stable footing, and caught myself just in time to avoid sliding underneath it, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud…only two more weeks!  I’m so ready!


Last winter

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