These are dark and disturbing times. Recently, soot laden air from western wildfires further dimmed the darkening skies, as winter slouches towards us. Ominous signs abound–cue the distant drumming. Disease stalks the land. Civil bonds unravel. A sudden change in the weather prematurely forced us into our seasonal cocooning. A pleasant start to the month vanished like a conjuror’s trick. Or, as we in Minnesota like to say, “Can’t complain.”
A text, asking for prayers, focused my concern for a niece living in Portland Oregon as wildfires closed in around the city. Another text informed me that my brother-in-law, who shares a home with my sister and my 96-year-old (!) mother, had contracted COVID. Another time, hovering news helicopters signaled the start of a nearby demonstration.
But, Portland was spared. My brother-in-law recovered without spreading the disease to anyone else. The demonstration stayed peaceful, this time. And it looks like the weather will warm up for the start of November.
Anyway, we’re a hardy lot, in Minnesota. At times, our snowfalls are measured in feet, and the wind chill dips into the minus 30-degree zone. If you live on the northern edge of civilization, you gotta expect adversity.
Who can forget the Halloween blizzard of 1991? It claimed 20 lives in this state. https://www.weather.gov/arx/halloween1991
Or, how about the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940? Temperatures in Minnesota plummeted from the 40s and 50s to the low teens within one day? Twenty-foot snowdrifts were reported near Wilmar. Forty-nine Minnesotans died in that blizzard. https://www.weather.gov/arx/nov111940#:~:text=The%20blizzard%20left%2049%20dead,%2C%20Minnesota%2C%20and%20other%20states.
Meanwhile, I’ve been reading a lot of Czech history. If there is one thing that will remind you that others have made it through bad times, it’s reading history.
I belong to a book club, Czech and Slovak Literary Ventures, and that’s kind of our thing. I am currently reading my pick for this season of virtual meetings is The Greengrocer and his TV. It highlights the period from the late 1960s to the end of Communism, and how they used state TV to help popularize the government. It makes you think about how popular mediums, in that case, television, currently, social media, can shape our perceptions of reality. I also have another, thicker book that I got through Inter-library loan (which, hurrah, is still working, in these uncertain times). It is Flag Wars & Stone Saints, which tackles “the formation of national identity” through the use of cultural symbols, such as statues, songs, celebrations, etc. This has echoes in current times with the current debates about removing statues and renaming. This has been going on, other places, for a long time. I may not get too far into it before it is due. You can only keep ILLs for 3-weeks.