Apr 18, 2021

Don't lose yourself in the empty streets.

Across North Central Texas, people call them blue northers.

Bitter winter winds blow down all the way from Canada,

racing over the prairie like Mario Andretti is behind the wheel,

dropping the temperature ridiculously far below freezing.

"Cold enough for you?"

"Yup. If this is for me, it can quit anytime."

Life slows down, businesses and schools close,

and God help you if it rains just before the norther hits;

the world will be covered in a sheet of ice.

Power lines and tree limbs snap, the roads are a danger,

and many water pipes give up the ghost and burst.

The wind speaks with a ghostly voice,

"woooo," and you had better get the livestock in the barn.

Salt the porches and walkways, put chains on the tires,

get out the old checkerboard and the playing cards,

and settle in to wait it out, like waiting out a siege.

People in other places tend to think of Texas as hot,

and a lot of the time that's true enough.

You can see a seventy degree Christmas or New Year.

But the next day a norther strides in and slaps your face,

and everything changes for a few hard days.

I have seen my father put on his wife's pantyhose

under his long-underwear, and two pairs of pants on top.

The cold bites hard on people who are used to heat.

The smart ones are prepared, late in the fall they stock up.

Rock salt goes in the shed, the fruit is canned,

a pig and a yearling calf go into the deep freezer.

A cord or two of wood is cut, tire chains are checked,

repaired if needed, and put in the back of the truck.

The chainsaw blade is sharpened and oiled, too,

for the limbs that will fall, probably right in the way.

Then, when the norther comes like an unliked relative,

which is a fair comparison, they can smile about it.

If the power goes out, they can cook on the old wood stove,

they light the kerosene lanterns and play checkers.

There is hay in the barn and the fences are strong.

"Cold enough for you?"

"Yup. If this is for me, it can quit anytime."

The family is close, and if the cold night is long, so what?

In three days, maybe four, the sun will melt the ice,

and the world will recover, and heal with the warmth.

Time after time, winter after winter, the world always recovers.

And the life we know once again goes on.


The city is deserted,


Don't lose yourself in the empty streets.

The street signs are all down,

and your feet are bloody and sore.

The electricity has been turned off,

the traffic lights no longer work.

Where have I been?


Not in trouble,

not chastised by some condemning god,

but asleep.

It is time for you to stop running after me.

You didn't need to search for me at all.

I rested the whole night through.

Your worries do not inspire fear in me,

and even if they did,

there is little comfort in a smothering love.

Walk back the way you came,

and I will do the same.

Life is fire,



and water.

Family is blood.

Fear and danger could never break the bond between us.

And I was never afraid anyway.


-for Nena, my mother 1927-2013

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

-Jon Kabat-Zinn

The only entity in the universe that knows what you are is you. And no one can tell you. No one can tell you.

-Brad Warner

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