It is darker now at ten minutes before 8am than it was at 6:30 this morning. As I drove Cheri to work around 7am, we both remarked how beautiful the sky looked, just as dawn was breaking. It was a bright red sky to the east. Of course, right after the remark, we spoke in unison, “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning…” It’s an old saying, that strangely enough falls true. When you see a red sky at dawn, you can watch for the storms coming. I’m not a meteorologist, but it happens that way. I did a little research, and apparently, the morning red sky occurs because the sky is actually clear below the cloud shelf, and the sun is able to light up the underside of the clouds, which are full of moisture. Of course, when the cloud shelf drops down too far, all you see is a dark, getting-ready-to-rain skyline.
Or, in the case of the Dakotas in February, it’s a getting-ready-to-snow skyline. Yesterday, the temperature at the airport registered 40 degrees, which after a few weeks of highs in the -teens, made it possible to go get the mail at the end of the driveway in shorts and flipflops (of course, avoiding the four inches of slush that accumulated from the melting snow!). Still, it was a glorious day for February, and it led you to think that maybe Spring was closer than we thought. I mean, March comes on Monday, and usually by the end of March, the weather is looking a bit jollier, barring any blizzards or massive snowstorms…
So, back to the skyline. And darkness. Hearing today’s forecast yesterday afternoon left everyone shaking their heads, because in the midst of melting Monday lay the promise/warning of a turbulent Tuesday. The graphic didn’t show the deep red color that is the background for wind chill, high wind, winter storm or blizzard warning – or flood – but it did offer the “yellow” background of the “winter weather advisory.” It’s a step more serious on the scale than what I call “embarrassment snow.” You know, a half inch, even up to two inches, that, unless you are fanatical, you just drive over on your driveway, instead of having to shovel it down to the concrete. There are those, even in our neighborhood, who must remove from any hard surface any evidence that it ever snowed, sometimes shoveling while the snow is still falling. The only thing I can contribute that to is perhaps severe toilet training as a toddler. My philosophy in recent years has been, “God put it there, and God will take it away when it’s time.”
But we do have yellow in our weather background, which the weather forecasters promise will be “between 2-5 inches” in a swath of countryside nearly 100 miles wide. I really think they get away with poor weather predictions by making the future plans so wide and so varied that they of course are right. Now, I’m not much of a gambler, but when I watch in a movie where they are playing roulette, and you pick a number or a color for the little ball to land on as the wheel spins – if you put down money on every single square, then certainly you will win. Trouble is, you will also lose more than you win. So when the folks on tv say that we can expect between a trace and 6 inches of snow somewhere over a path that is 100 miles wide, well, when your wife asks you if we are going to get snow, the best you can interpret is to say that that somebody is probably going to get something, somewhere. That’s what I call true focused predictions.
But it was a red sky this morning, and now it is as if the sun never rose today. The west is a deep, deep gray/blue/black, and there isn’t any wind. After years of driving off into the countryside on mornings just like this, only to be hit with blinding snowstorms about a half-hour into what should be a four-hour drive, to me it sure looks like snows-a-comin’.
That’s why we are switching up tonight’s menu a bit. Instead of fajitas, or Chinese noodle, which would require me going out to the grocery store to pick up those extra ingredients that I didn’t realize we needed when we shopped two days ago, I’m going to wait until tomorrow, when I have to take the car over to the dealer anyway to have some work done (again…), and I’ll just grocery shop (again…) after that. No, tonight seems like it could and should be the crowd favorite of Chili. And cornbread. Actually, it’s Cheri’s favorite, which she would have on the menu nearly every week, to the rest of the family’s chagrin. (We will look at that fascinating word at the end of the column.)
You see – Cheri is Norwegian, with some Swede thrown in for good measure. Given that fact, with over two dozen different hot sauces, salsas, ground pepper, pepper flakes, and pepper juice and habanero sauce that reside either on the shelf or in the refrigerator, my bride will only allow a small portion of the sauce from Mexican Village to go on her plate. Now, Mexican Village hot sauce is best described as a micro-step hotter than ketchup. I actually could not really count the number of times we have been in a restaurant, and she orders chili, or chicken tortilla or some others Hispanic/Latino sounding soup, takes one spoonful, then covers her mouth and exclaims, “Oh – that is SOOOOO spicy!” and pushes the bowl away, only to instead have a meal of tortilla chips.
The saddest, of course, is when before she eats something, she has me try it, like the royal food taster whose job is to make sure the queen isn’t poisoned. What’s sad is that after nearly 44 years together, she will ask the person whose tastebuds and tongue have long ago been burned completely to ashes by every-increasing hot “things” – I never really know what to say. “Well, it’s sort of hot, I guess.” At which opinion, she takes a spoonful, and then looks at me as though I betrayed national secrets, and she was being led to the firing squad. I guess that may be way too many analogies, but what I’m trying to say is that when our family has chili on the menu, it goes unsaid that any effort to put any heat under that soup is forbidden. Now, I know it’s possible to add cayenne and chili powders or other Tabasco or hot Habanero sauce (is there any other kind?) after the soup is in the bowl, but it’s just not the same. But that’s too bad.
So, today, I will whip up some tasty Norwegian chili, which in some areas in the world would be the equivalent of bland spaghetti sauce. And no beans, either – even though the word “chili” means “beans.”
The thing is – I am happy to make that kind of chili for my beloved. The saddest day of my life indeed might be the one when I don’t need to care how hot the chili is, since someone would not be there to eat it. My intention is for that day to be so far into the future as to not matter, and my intention is to make her wonderful chili just the way she wants it. I’ll even throw in some intentional corn bread while I am at it…
Oh look – it’s starting to snow.
Word for the day (like I promised). Chagrin. Pronounced sha-GRIN. As you may have noticed, often when a word has a French connection, it still arrives at its birth in Latin, since French is a Romance (meaning from Rome) language. However, today’s word appears to have sprung up within the heart of the French mindset. The word means everything from grief or sorrow, or sadness, to even embarrassment or distress of the mind. Say the word with a French accent, and you will catch on. It is used as both a noun (to my chagrin) and as a verb (I was chagrinned) that describes the uncomfortable and uneasy sense of nearly being mortified at an occurrence or situation. Although it may not quite fit, some experts believe the word is related to another French word of the same sound – chagrin – or shagreen, which means the rough leather or rough skin. When you rub up against the shagreen, it’s the same feeling as being chagrinned. Nothing to grin about, for sure.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.