Sky time

It has been an eventful year, of many changes, of firsts and lasts.  Oxford beginnings, college graduation, then a month on my bed in Bemidji, boxes still packed, scouring the internet for gainful employment.  And then I found some.  (Employment, I mean.)

Two and a half weeks ago I moved to Worthington, a town so close to Minnesota’s southern border it’s practically Iowan.  It is plains country, prairie, fields and grass.  There are not near enough trees.  The farmhouses and silos surrounding the town have nothing to interrupt them—no forests, creeks, hills.  The ground is flat.

Children’s maps of the 50 states almost always color Minnesota brightly—blue, usually, or yellow.  Iowa is always bland.  Brown, chartreuse, sometimes gray, sometimes a nameless blend of the three.  I remembered this the day I arrived.  It is a beautiful six-hour drive from Bemidji to Worthington, but it has little topographical texture.  Just earth, sloping slightly and returning to its original elevation; and crops of uniform height.

I’m the new night editor at the Worthington Daily Globe, (apparently) confirming that my Oxford schedule wasn’t merely a product of academic pressure but rather my natural state.  I start at 2 p.m. and tend to get off sometime around 11 p.m., five days a week.  I create the newspaper’s layout, play with InDesign, edit local articles, select and edit regional and national articles, fill in boxes with locally relevant information—weather, police reports, crop prices, lotteries.  I post articles and photos online in various formats.  I like the work so far; it’s a balanced combination of creativity and repetition.  Newspapers are eternally fresh—we start from scratch every day, and I never know what ingredients I’ll have to work with until I arrive.  Sometimes, not even then.

When I leave at night, most of the building’s lights are out, and only the sports guys are left, finalizing their drafts of the evening’s games.  My apartment is only a few blocks from the paper, but I drive the distance because it is still winter, and the wind cuts through both fabric and skin.

No trees means nothing to check the wind, and it certainly picks up speed through the prairie, streaming into empty spaces, funneling through the gaps between city blocks.  During the first few weeks, when it was still pure winter, I spent a lot of time sprinting between indoor locations, one hand on my purse and one wrapped around my hair.  Sometimes the wind carries snow with it, an unrelenting deluge of cold wet pinpricks, finding the gaps between my layers of snow-armour, the separate piercing particles beating down all from congruent angles.  My car only ever ices on one side.

But winter isn’t pure anymore; it’s only February, and we’ve had warm days already.  At least, Minnesota warm: maybe thirty-five degrees.  I’m told the same wind that daily proves itself against my coat will bring in an early summer.  I’ve gone for neighborhood walks with my mittened hands stuffed in my pockets; I’ve shopped for sleeveless shirts.  I’ve seen the town’s frozen lake layered with loose powdery snow, and I’ve braced my body against the wind’s glacial impact and felt only a breeze, cold but gentle.  I looked up once, walking to my car, and forgot where I was going because the same wind that had packed the snow around me into drifts had blown rapids into the far-off clouds and then vanished, swallowing itself, and the clouds kept the rapids in place.

There’s so much sky here.  I always remember Minnesota sky as dark blue, so dark that looking into it feels like falling up; but here the sky is white-blue, watery pale.  Where I used to live was the middle of an evenly divided sphere, half the world contained in the impossible sunlit darkness above and half in the living earth below.  But this is a snow globe, with a patch of earth below—just enough to stand on—and a whirling still glass orb filling the rest, far as I can see.

When I was shorter, and playing on swings, and thinking about falling up and flying, I told my mom that the best invention ever invented was the sky.

‘The sky is not an invention,’ she said, which is, admittedly, a natural response.

But I don’t think I was wrong.  God, after all, is an inventor.  Who sits down at their desk and things, I’ll invent nothing, and make it everything?  A single-color backdrop that threatens to become the centerpiece, so full you have to widen your eyes to see it, so bright you have to squint.  So real you want to touch it and so far away you can’t, and yet what it is made of is tamped against our molecules, equalizing pressure, holding us together, too insubstantial for us to grasp, too close to get round.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  In him we live and move and have our being.

Nothing to see here, I heard someone comment on the wide barren expressionless of a Canadian vista, and someone else replied, Nothing to block your view.

I meant to fill this first Worthington post with anecdotes and job facts and see-I’m-fine-Mom assurances, and here I am talking about sky.  Maybe I’ll hold the small-town adventures for next time.

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