This is South Dakota in winter. It is a place of extremes. It is a place with hard edges at least one half of the year, and this shows on the faces of the people who live here.
When I first arrived here five years ago, spring had not yet arrived and I couldn't understand the scowls on the faces of people I saw at the grocery store or the post office. They seemed reluctant to make eye contact as if they may actually be forced to smile. I thought that people here were just sort of unfriendly. Now they of course would take offense to that. This is after all the upper Midwest, the heartland, where people are supposed to be very friendly.
So now I get it. It's March and spring has yet to make a real appearance. She teases us now and again with a little sunshine, a light breeze, and a cloudless sky. Then she runs away. So people scowl and wish for an end to it now. I desperately need to feel the grass between my toes, the sun on my face and the warmth. So today I scowl like the others.
I do not want to be this person. I always loved winter and the snow, but in this place it is too long, too cold, and too deep. It is this time of year that I dream of Tucson, of Austin, and of sandy beaches. I want to have coffee outside and take a walk to the park.
But I've learned that despite the scowling winter faces, there are soft hearts to be unearthed. I've learned that anywhere is warm where there is love, and that a smile can melt even the most frozen emotional landscape. So when I pass by a mirror, I check in to make sure I am not sporting a frown and furrowed brow that is all the rage these last long days of winter. And at night I dream of firefly evenings and pinks flip flops.