Last night I bundled up to walk Ashok in the neighborhood. I dreaded it as I could hear the wind rattling the windows. It was colder than it had been, my car registering 21 degrees when I left work earlier in the evening. It would drop to 15 before the sun rose, but I’d be tucked into my bed by then. I was more worried about the temps ratcheted down by the wind as I put on my new down coat, several layers and my snow boots.
Brrrrrrrr … I whispered as I walked down the icy steps. Ashok turned around and looked at me excitedly. I steeled myself for what I knew would be a cold one and headed down the street. The wind literally growled around me. I imagined the surf on Lake Michigan 10 minutes away. Was that the waves I heard as a backdrop for those ferocious winds? Surely I couldn’t hear it from here, but still ….
“What are you doing out here?” the tiger growled. He swirled around me, brushing my legs and nudging me forward. “It’s too cold out here for you, curly girl.” I shuddered and put my head down, shuffling through the icy street.
A million tigers growled around me. I wondered if he was right and I shouldn’t be out here. But I was warm and cozy in my winter clothes. As long as I kept my face covered, it wasn’t so bad. I slipped a little around the corner. The light snow covered the icy cement surface of the sidewalk. Some neighbors had shoveled and some had not. A frozen obstacle course challenged me and Ashok as she searched for a place to pee. Piles of frozen created icebergs, and it seemed that the earth moved under my feet.
The tiger growled around us, and I covered my face and hugged my coat around me. My fingers were starting to get really cold in my gloves, and my face stung with cold. “Go away,” I said and shivered. “Go home, Southern girl,” he snapped back at me. “You can’t take it out here.” I brushed him off and walked faster.
At the corner of the main road, he roared loudly. A hundred tigers ran at me through the funnel of the street. The force took my by surprise, and the cold whipped around and underneath my coat, shocking my bones. “I said go home, Southern girl,” he screamed. “You can’t handle this!” I straightened up in my boots, breathed in strength from the earth and imagined a Louisiana summer day. The warmth boiled my blood, and I snapped back, “You don’t scare me. You are just a puffed-up bully. I chose this. Go back from where you came.” My resolve coursed through my veins.
Angry winds howled and spit around me the rest of the way home. But I had said my piece. I contentedly finished my walk with my girl. I was happy to be home and warm inside the rest of the evening as the tiger growled and swirled around my house. I imagined all of the nights that Michigan winds had haunted this place, and it was still standing. “I AM home,” I whispered to myself as I curled up under my woolen blankets to fall asleep.