This story is by Mia Hooper.
Something that I think about a lot is that — I think about larger systemic stuff too and I don’t mean to make it about me — I’ve found a community here that’s the most important thing I’ve ever had, and I feel so rooted. I want to keep living here, and I feel like I will — it would take something catastrophic to drive me out. But 3/4 of the weather here makes me miserable and holds me back from doing things I should be doing. I come from a place that’s mild, and the seasons I love are spring and fall, and I feel like those last two weeks each. Then either it’s brutally cold or wearing clothes is miserable, and I don’t want to leave the house. I’m kind of prone to hanging out by myself in my room anyway, and that’s not good for me. I need to be around people. I’ve been doing better with that, but that’s partly because the weather has been kind of a pleasant medium, and I know that’s not going to last. I thought I was doing well with winter, getting tougher, but then this last winter was so harsh.
Later, H sits in her house, looking out. It is so hot and bright, or so cold and dark, and she thinks, I can’t. Then she thinks, what is can’t? She tries to stand up, and she can. She tries to wrap herself in woolens, or slather herself in sunscreen, and she can. She remembers all the times she could before. Life adapts. There are lives in the most unlivable parts of the world. Make yourself a tube worm, a lichen. Bring an orchid to the tundra and its chances won’t be good, but H is not an orchid. She sits down again and makes a few phone calls.
She has friends who grew up here, for whom the cold and heat are not such a burden, so the salons begin at her home. Friends come, and even some neighbors who enjoy the rare treat of central heating and air. H is surprised when people take her hosting as generosity rather than selfishness. The snow shows a network of tunnels and footsteps; if she could see it from above, she would recognize a temporary map of permanent connections.
At first the salons are mostly social–food is shared, and warmth or coolness, and slightly halting conversation. Then, soon, she tentatively asks them to share expertise, and resources. Some can’t, or won’t, and for a while the numbers dwindle, but those who do always have more to contribute than they think. Someone says the word skyways, and all of them think of downtowns in cold climates. Skyways make it easier for businesses to have customers, for people to spend money. H talks about them in a different way. Sometimes enclosures have a way of opening things up.
They experiment with discarded jet bridges–a friend of a friend of a friend works for the airport–and the canopies heave and buckle like accordion bellows as H and her companions race the two weeks of perfect weather. Their efforts are not altogether sound; a smattering of knowledge and all-hands-on-deck cannot always serve as a substitute for commercial engineering. Parts collapse under the weight of all their expectations. As the pleasant qualities of light fade and cold sets in again, H struggles with her lack of success. I couldn’t, and I can’t. But, maybe, failure is not failure if you can try again. Time is not wasted if you know something new. There are worse ways to spend two weeks of perfect weather. A physical network is still beyond them, but her invisible network has grown and strengthened. Someone suggests a grant proposal. People will brave snow and smog to band together again, join H in her home, and together, pressing forward the machine of existence doesn’t seem such a hard burden to bear.