I don't want to hate it there. I really don't. It is where I come from, and simply too much of what I am. Perhaps that is my true problem with it. Perhaps it is where I start instead of where I finish.

Looking in after so many years you just can't remember what that feeling of impending winter is like: The sky is blue, but it ends there. The wind is blowing the thin trees recently planted around the hastily-built low structures to a semi-circle facing perpetually south. The branches whip laterally through the few dry flakes of snow in the air, but it is the gritty dirt on the wind and everything else that you feel the most. Nearly all of the fields have been turned at least once by now, and there hasn't been enough snow yet to keep the grains in place. It has begun to collect in a few vulnerable spots in miniature dark drifts against curbs and tires and randomly strewn heavy objects too firmly held to yield to the wind.

And the cold. You know from hundreds of childhood walks to school and church that it is not actually cold yet when the thermometer is still in positive numbers, but the wind tears at the seams of your coat in collusion with Boreas and creates the designed understanding. It seeps into your center the first time you walk/run from the house to the already-running car and it won't yield its grip. All that the dry artificial heat can accomplish is to crack your lips and initiate that irritated perpetual cough you had forgotten about. The chill is always there, stained onto your skin underneath the layers of cheap sweaters and pastel nylon jackets meant for skiing that will never see a hill much less a mountain. It begins to drive your thoughts, but most obviously your actions. You are forever planning how and when activities will occur to give the least possible impact to your person, and everyone around you is falling into the same line unconsciously as they have the same reaction. It doesn't actually kill something inside you as the tired expression would indicate, it holds it hostage. You can see it there struggling against the bonds and oppression you yourself have placed upon it necessarily, but you cannot touch it or hold it or even pull it out for a little exercise in the proverbial yard. All you can do is look at it through the glass and count the days until spring and the release that is never as compete and unconditional as it portends to be.

The light has begun to take on that specific color as well. Early in the afternoon, it is fighting the few objects high enough to throw shadows with the last bits of auburn and gray. You wouldn't think that the light from the sun could be anything but yellow, but the filtering through the high wispy clouds and the low particulates borne on the air to the height of ten or maybe twenty feet above your head change the physics of it. You look at that shallow angle to the horizon and the natural smog of the crisp air and frozen-mud fields mixes with the yellow and creates the unnatural blend of warm colors and cold colors that strike you warmless on the cheek. It is best to turn away from the wind and look toward the ground to conserve the words and expressions that are creating the way you feel. In the end, it all leads to turning away in one form or another, and you look from a disconnected distance and forget to ask why it is required.

You know rationally all that winter in North Dakota offers and is can only be superficial, but you cannot experience it on that level. The years you spend there as a child are too forming. The old habits and addictions manifest in a disturbingly ugly way and with shocking speed, and you find yourself speaking again in elongated vowels and staccato enunciation of breath billowing in clouded steaming cartoon balloons carried away immediately by the dusty wind. And you have to ask yourself again how you lived in such an unhappy place for so long without wondering why.

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