No coat, no shoes November

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winter

Last week, I wrote lamenting the wintery weather we were experiencing, then added a brief caveat hoping that our luck would change and we’d have a warmer November. Usually tempting fate this way is a terrible idea, and is rewarded with exactly the type of weather you’re hoping to avoid–or, anyway, it’s sometimes seemed so to me in the past. However, that has not been the case this week!

In the days following the winter storm, the temperatures climbed steadily. The snow the short blizzard dropped began to melt away, turning to rivers of mud that coursed down the gravel driveway, watering the grasses that are somehow still tinged with green. “It feels like spring!” My daughter exclaimed yesterday morning, running out onto the patio with no shoes and no coat.

She was back soon enough (it wasn’t quite warm enough for no shoes and coat, after all) but by late afternoon the only evidence of the snowman she’d built the day before was a tiny mound of white in an otherwise damp, brown landscape, and it was indeed warm enough for no coat and no shoes — at least for sturdy little girls who will happily trade being a wee bit chilly for the freedom of less material encumbrances.

Of course, I know it can’t last. Winter will come as winter always does. These last fine days before the inevitable cold weather are usually when I constantly cajole the kids to get outside and soak in the sunshine. “You don’t want to miss this!” I’ll tell them. “Soon enough it will be cold and not as fun to play outside!”

I’ve been trying not to do that this year, however. For one thing, it’s become an increasingly less effective tactic as they approach their tweens, my sorrowful intonations greeted with eye rolls, and snarky rejoinders like: “We’re bored of nice weather.”

It’s pretty much parenting 101 that the more a mom bugs a kid to do something, the less he or she wants to do that thing, so I probably should have figured out I was working against myself sooner. More importantly, though, I’ve realized I don’t want to be actively teaching them to dread the coming of the cold weather, which is exactly what I’ve inadvertently been doing all this time. When winter lasts half the year, it is important to find some joy in the cold.

In any case, all during our beautiful October, I tried to talk about enjoying the warm, golden days with nonchalance, and for the most part it worked; getting them out the door was easier than it’s ever been before. This week was even more effortless. After our short dance with sleet and snow, I haven’t had to breathe a word about going outside to experience the unexpected reprieve. They’ve been helping their Dad dig the last of the potatoes, jumping on the newly stacked hay bales, building a dog house for Ellie, our Great Pyrenees, and even going on walks with me out to the pasture with no aggressive persuasion required.

My mom is here for a visit right now too. Saturday night the kids wanted to watch a movie and have pizza — our usual weekend custom — but I said I wanted to sit on the porch with Nana and watch the sunset first. Did they want to join us? To my surprise they did. Moreover, as the twilight turned from colored flags to full dark, and the night grew cold, no one mentioned going inside. We simply snuggled closer under the sleeping bag I’d pulled out of the camper, and in the last of the light read each other jokes from a book my mom had brought with her.

I am left shaking my head at my forgetfulness, as this is a lesson I’ve learned so many times already. Attempting to exert control is never as effective as following my own joy. Sometimes, even the weather decides to follow along. Now I just have to remember to do it more regularly!

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Eliza Blue is a shepherd, folk musician and writer residing in western South Dakota. In addition to writing her weekly column, Little Pasture on the Prairie, she writes and produces audio postcards from her ranch and just released her first book, Accidental Rancher. She also has a weekly show, Live from the Home Farm, that broadcasts on social media every Saturday night from her ranch.

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