I woke at three this morning to a whining wind, gusting, screeching, crescendo-ing to near 50 mph. I see oaks, black silhouettes swaying fearfully beyond my window. I bury my ears in blankets and pillows but cannot take my eyes off the spectacle before me. Something about the latest manifestation of the Polar Vortex fascinates.

I’m a widow, living in my own home on an acre of land studded with 26 ancient oaks, a long gravel driveway, and a bum knee. Polar Vortex weather forecasts, nearly daily, portend unprecedented below zero temperatures, record breaking wind chills, more snow fall than usual and predicted ice storms. On the day the whole mid-western world it seemed, was warned to stay put, cold so daunting one could incur frostbite in a brief trip to the mailbox, I hole up in the comfort of my home, stay in bed ’til noon, drink coffee, read, write, and count my blessings. Water drips from every faucet, snow blows horizontal, darkness descends early and I watch two movies back to back: The Age of Innocence and A River Runs Through It. Both films are taken from novels, erudite, beautifully narrated throughout. I’ve seen these films before but this time I relish their nuances on a deeper level. Day two of the big chill I start moving about, task oriented. The day, icy blue, clear-skied, the sun brilliant. Beauty in the danger!

This has been a winter when several of those I love have been injured or have had daunting surgeries. I myself have nursed a fractured patella, felt myself vulnerable in a way I have not experienced before. A potential ice storm, predicted to culminate before I leave work in Naperville for the drive home sends chills. Still, I am in awe of Nature. I am in awe of its power, loveliness, variety, ability to bring us humans to a stand-still. I am in awe of the ugly-beauty of the eleven wild turkeys who ofttimes frequent my property, pecking, fanning, scooting, half-flying on their turkey-way. I am in awe of a sky so blue right now as I write that my heart breaks with appreciation even as oaks sway precariously.

I am alive in the God-given Polar Vortex, surviving, on edge, a bit frightened but grateful. I am here and Bob is in heaven and I remembered to drip the faucets to keep the pipes from freezing. I’ve asked for help when I’ve needed it. People have come ‘round to lend support. The loneliness is a part of my life and always will be. It is lonesome-ness, really. Lonesomeness for a person, a partner in all that LIFE and NATURE has to offer. That someone with whom I shared all that was formidable and exciting, and fearsome and exquisite and dear.

April D. Carlson, LCSW