Contemplation on the Bus

It’s January 6, and I’m sitting here on a bus full of sleeping college students, sweating. Chicago is looming in front of us – not springing up like usual, but doing a fairly good impression of actually looming. It doesn’t feel like a bad omen, though. Quite the opposite, in fact. The bus driver has a window cracked, and the air outside is booming through the cabin, almost drowning out the cellphoners. I cannot relate how gratified I am to notice the fantastic weather Chicagoland is having as I return from break. Clouds – rain clouds, not those stratified snow ones – are massing in the west, and the forecast calls for a nice storm (love those!) and temperatures in the 60’s. It feels –

 – it feels like the summers I remember from when I used to live in Nebraska. Along about March or April we’d get weather like this, and storms would move in off the prairie and drench the capital in rain, which would dance white sparks along the sidewalks downtown and drop tinnily onto the roof of our new house. I can remember running outside and playing, splashing through puddles, inhaling the scent of fresh-cut lawns and ozone and fields and the rain pounding on the suburban sidewalks. A couple of times, usually in the evening, they’d play a warning tone on the TV, which was controlled by an actual cable box and had those dials that clunk so satisfyingly into place, and we’d grab a thin blue blanket and a battery-powered radio and trundle into the basement for a half-hour or so. But my best memories are just being outside, shaking like a dog, even rolling in the grass, just being wet and happy and five years old. All my favorite mental moments from my time there seem to be headed by excited gray skies – not the dull, ponderous kind you get in winter or during a long soaking rain, but clouds with life and definition and colors in the shades of blue and gray and sunset orange and the sun finding its way through thin spots, even as the rain continued to fall.

But right now, It’s January. In Illinois. This warm spell is mildly unprecedented – the temperatures could be record highs, though not by much – and probably portends some horrible form of climate change, but for now I’m going to enjoy the three days of spring we’ll have before Mother Nature plunges us back into the bathtub full of ice water that passes for winter around here.

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