Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dollar Bills Falling from the Sky

Written during “Blizzard-like Conditions” in Southwest Minneapolis
I’ve been helping Mary Katherine with her study of Indian tribes lately.  I’ve learned which tribes created floating gardens, which lived on pine nuts and which sacrificed citizens so that the sun would keep rising. I’ve thought of how happy I was not to be living as an Aztec (too bloody) or a Shoshone (too boring). I’ve also found myself wondering how people a thousand years from now might view our little tribes of the 21st century.

I’ve been a tribe shifter in my life, moving from Nearly Southern to Utterly Northern, so I still observe the local customs with an outsider’s eye. As sophisticated as we humans like to think we are, our interaction with the weather is usually a dead giveaway of our more elemental selves.

Every part of the world, I imagine, has a sort of weather that shakes them to their core. I happened to be in San Diego one time during several days of – gasp – rain. Their evening newscaster broadcast live from a playground and showed images of empty swings dangling in the damp. “Children would normally be playing here,” he intoned sadly, “But it’s too wet.”

In my hometown of St. Louis, snow was viewed as a sure sign that we had displeased the gods. Weather forecasters would lead the evening newscast, no matter what had happened in the larger world that day. Stopping just short of wearing sackcloth and ashes, they would moan and beat their breasts, whimpering out the sad fact that Up to Three Inches was expected. The next story would inevitably be from some News Bunny doing a remote from the grocery store, pointing dramatically to the empty shelves where the bread and milk had been bought out by panicked and hoarding citizens.

While extended heat makes people in Minnesota little cranky, they turn their frowns upside down when it starts to snow. The same cold fronts that cause whimpers in my hometown make people positively giddy in these parts.  They invariably overpredict snowfall amount, optimistically wishing for even more happy snow time. Every newscaster turns upbeat and uses phrases like “good, old-fashioned snowstorm” to describe impending events.

The citizenry seems convinced of two things. One, snow is a sure sign that we are God’s Chosen Snowpeople; and two, our reaction to the storm will be an excellent chance to Prove our Character. No one here would ever speak (out loud) about the numbskulls in Atlanta or Washington D.C and how they react to snow, but you know those lightweights are crossing the minds of every person shoveling out their driveways today. Scrape, scrape, rueful smile at the thought of how badly others would manage this blessing; scrape, scrape, satisfied sigh at this sign of the Almighty’s Blessings Being Visited Upon Us.

Same weather, different responses. As crazy as the folks here are, I suppose it’s more fun to act as if dollar bills are falling from the sky than to run to the Kroger to buy up all the Wonder Bread.  I’ll choose frolicking over panic today, even if I am renouncing my tribe.

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