I’ve mentioned before that when winter comes to the Northland, it’s almost as if everything moves into suspended animation. Sure, there is school and work and hockey and basketball, but so much of outdoor things simply don’t exist. It’s a matter of opening the garage door, getting in the car, driving off, and then coming back home and sequestering inside. Sure, there are Christmas decorations to put up, but often they are left until spring comes around. Kids mostly play inside, treadmills get put to use, and the time of silent winter reigns supreme.
And then, all of a sudden, it’s as the switch gets turned on in our world. This year, it seemed to happen on about May 11th. There were some pre-event things happen, like some folks mowing their lawns, even one or two turning their sprinkler systems on – but those were rarities, and speak more to the obsession of the homeowner. However, on that May 11th, everything broke loose. It was probably because the forecast showed us to finally be out of a night of freezing, because suddenly, every lawn in the neighborhood was mowed, almost at the same time, and leaves from last fall raked up, and shrubs and even trees were pruned, front steps swept off, garages hosed out to get rid of the dirt and salt that had collected on the tires all winter. Different little flags were hung as decorations, that no longer had a snow and ice theme, but now had bright flowers.
And the flowers! The nurseries and plant stores in town were overrun by hundreds of folks with flats of annuals and other plants to plant. It was akin to Black Friday shopping before the pandemic. We participated in it too – gotta get the blooms – gotta make things all pretty. Within days, the fronts and backs of homes were exploding with the colorful plants that will flourish for a good fifteen weeks, until September comes, and they begin to look shaggy and tired, and neglected a bit, because, frankly, if we don’t get the rain, it’s a huge pain to have to daily stand there and water the pots and pots of flowers that you got carried away with in buying…
The other sight – and sound – runs constant from about 7am to 7pm most every day. Driveways are broken up and new ones poured. Large landscaping tears out old evergreens and plant new ones. Garage doors up and down the street are left open all day, as utility trailers sit backed up onto the driveway, and guys with tool belts walk in and out of the houses, transforming kitchens or bathrooms or family rooms or some where else that needs change. You see, it’s warm enough to leave the doors open, without freezing the interior, and the mosquitos have not quite turned out to begin their annual bloodsucking work. So, what we must do – is renovate.
There is of course also the sight of kids on bikes, kids on scooters, kids of roller blades, kids just being outside and yelling and screaming for most of the daylight hours, as they play basketball in the backyard courts, or bounce on the trampolines, or even play street rollerblade hockey, that has to be paused frequently as they gather up their goals and move them to the side of the street to let the cars drive by. People are taking walks, on sidewalks, in the street, where ever, often either pulling reluctant dogs along behind them, or having to walk briskly to keep up with a quick pooch who will, on a dime, go from trotting to a complete stop to sniff a tree or some other intriguing spot on the grass.
And out come the grills, so that most weekends, right around 5 or 6pm, the aromas of brats, hamburgers, steaks, chicken, barbeque and other carnivore delights fill the air. Some folks actually sit in their backyard, but many nowadays, it seems, drag lawn chairs out to their driveway, and sit in the front yard. Always kind of an odd practice, when they have a good ¼ acre of yard behind the house they could enjoy.
On Fridays, if you look out your front window, you will see a dozen or more pickups, hauling the fishing boats from the weekly storage, and loading them up with tackle and bait and lots of beverages and other munchies, as they prepare to get to the “lakes,” which for us are all the spots in Minnesota just across the river. It gets a bit quieter Saturday and Sunday, at least until about 4pm when the boats come back and the kids comes back, and we start the week all over again.
This is the lively part of the year. It’s when we have to cram a year’s worth of outside into about four months, and perhaps even less than that. We know that’s how things operate up here. So, we savor every day we can, filling it full of work and relaxation, with the screen door on, until fall comes and we have to change it out for the storm door before the first snow comes. But for now, there is no chance of snow, and a hope of rain, and lots and lots of sunshine, so you have to leave your car door open for a few moments when you find it in the parking lot, to let the heat out – so you can actually sit in the car without having heat stroke. Those are the day of summer – how delightful.
Word for the day: euphemism. Pronounced YOU-fem-ism. We’ve heard this word often, but may not know its origin. The word, of course, comes from the Greek, euphemizein, which means “speak with fair words.” Breaking it down further, you have eu – “good” – and pheme – “speech.” The Greeks were a superstitious lot, and would work hard to avoid certain words of “ill-omen” in their religious ceremonies, so a euphemism was a gentle word or expression in place of a harsher or more blunt word. “They are going over a bit of a rough patch in their relationship,” instead of “He was caught having an affair, and now she wants a divorce.” You and I use euphemisms all the time. “Well, it has an unusual taste,” instead of “this makes me want to barf.”
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.