Thursday, January 9, 2014

"In the bleak midwinter" the car breaks down

"In the bleak midwinter long, long ago" …  Christina Rosetti's poem sang through my head for hours as we drove through the North Dakota prairies this past weekend. The weather was gasping cold for our grandson's hockey tournament in Crookston. We've been looking forward to it for weeks now. Icy roads. Drifts. Currents flowed across the highway, twining, twisting streams of fine snow. Denis and I laughed as we passed miles and miles of buried fence lines. We were remembering that scene from the movie Fargo where the character played by Steve Buscemi buries a suitcase with the money in a snowbank and returned to his partner with only $80,000.00. The character stops his car along the highway, looks both directions, flounders through the snow, and buries the suitcase in a spot that is so like a billion other spots, we know he will never, ever find it again.
North Dakota power plant

The land makes you wonder about the early pioneers who made it to the Red River Valley in the fall, and before winter only had time to build a three-sided sod house in the lee of a hill - if they were so lucky to find a hill. Even in our warm car, it felt a little dangerous. When we left Grand Forks for home on Sunday morning, it was 26 below not counting wind chill.
My favorite app is the Starbucks Locator that can lead me to the closest store anywhere in the U.S. - the coffee I count on when traveling. Allowing the pulsing blue circle to lead us to the green light on the map, just over the hill and off the next exit always gives me a small jolt of pleasure. You may not know that my blog name "toadsdrinkcoffee" is not random. We live in Toad Hall, so I suppose you could call us Toadies and good coffee is a burden I gladly bear.
No buried treasure here

On that cold morning we found a Starbucks in Grand Forks before we headed south. Along the way I had fleeting thoughts of what it would be like to break down along the road. About 10 miles north of Fargo, we did. Suddenly the rpms dropped to zero and we coasted to a stop. Our engine was still running, but the accelerator wouldn't engage. These days with every insurance company carrying road-side assistance, we knew we'd be okay, but it made Denis very tense, while me, I'm just sitting there sipping my latte, dough-dee-dough. With the engine still alive, we stayed warm. After several calls someone in a far-away, warm climate called a towing service in Fargo, located our position via our iPhone and GPS, and after an hour's wait the tow truck arrived. As he towed us into a Firestone shop, he told us he had pulled 72 drivers out of the ditch that weekend. (There had been a strange sleet that fell making roads even more treacherous.) All of them idiots, he said. He didn't count ones like us who broke down. As we waited for the shop to open, Denis started the engine again and automatically touched the accelerator which suddenly woke up. We quickly decided to take the chance and head to Rochester. On the five hour drive home the engine cut out three more times. It was stressful for Denis, especially when it happened while we were in the passing lane surrounded by semis and me yelling, "Turn on the hazards! Turn on the hazards!" Shutting the engine off and restarting seemed to reboot the system. It's fixed now.
Winter has its bleak side, of course. But to be home safe? To be warm? More than sufficient.
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, 
 earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; 
 snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, 
 in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain; 
 heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign. 
 In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed 
 the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. 

Angels and archangels may have gathered there, 
 cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; 
 but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, 
 worshiped the beloved with a kiss. 

What can I give him, poor as I am? 
 If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; 
 if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; 
 yet what I can I give him:  give my heart. - Christina Rosetti


liz@carpeseason said...

I have long, long loved this poem/song. My husband leads worship at church and I am ever urging him to sing this song around Christmas. Have not convinced him yet. Glad to know I'm not the only wife to yell things like "Turn on the hazards!" in a stressful situation - I can be so helpful that way.

Anonymous said...

A fellow coffee-aholic here. Every time I visit your blog, your favorite coffee picture drives me crazy. Seriously yummy lookin', that pic. Ah, that Fargo movie. Talk about violence, but such a memorable movie! And I'll never forget that accent! One of my cousins has only lived in Minnesota for 5 years and although he's half-Asian, he had the Fargo accent! It was wacky.