Since I've arrived in Arkansas, I've been called many things. Yankee (both with affection and thinly veiled contempt), northerner, foreigner, import and my personal favorite, alien. Small wonder, then, that I still don't feel like I actually live here. Sure, when I travel it feels good to come "home", ie, to the place where I spend most of my time and has my favorite sheets. But if I'm honest with myself, home is somewhere I haven't lived for 15 years.
Some things back home you just can't get here: cold, rainy town fairs featuring corn chowder in a bread bowl, fall foliage that is a blazing riot of red, orange and yellow (sorry, NWA, but I haven't seen an autumn yet to match a New England one), snowmobile trails that double as cross country ski trails, ice fishing tournaments, and towering, majestic pine trees like the one in our backyard that, if it had fallen, would have been double the length of my grandma's mobile home.
Back home, a storm like the one we just had would have resulted, at most, in a delayed school opening and little more. I was mildly embarrassed to have to give in to the "ice storm prep fever" that gripped our region over the last week, but I've learned that any precipitation is a much bigger deal here than in the chilly northeast where clearing 5 inches of snow and ice is as routine as rooting for the Red Sox.
So it's with surprise that I find myself feeling more like myself today than I have in a long time. Thursday evening and Friday were lovely, warm evenings, tucked in my apartment with, blessedly, the power working as it should. I had to chuckle at the fact that so many activities were canceled when I can remember crawling home on the bus from a winter basketball game, a 40-minute ride taking two hours, but it was ok.
And today, as I took a brisk and heart-pumping walk through the snow (I've forgotten how snow-trekking is great exercise), things just looked...familiar. Not all things; the kid sledding in a laundry basket was something I hadn't seen before. There was no mountain range forming the background for the white tipped trees. When I glanced up to see a low hanging tree still covered in snow, I wished for my cross-country skis, flashing back to many an expedition with my family where, if you were the 2nd person in the line, it was practically required to reach out with your ski pole and shower the group leader with snow as he/she glided under the tree.
But in general, my little corner of this Mid-South world looked like New England today. It's amazing what an equalizer a blanket of snow can be. Tomorrow, it'll melt and we'll all still be eating the bread and chili we laid by to keep us going through the storm. But today, I got a taste of home. Thanks, Mother Nature. I needed it.