Even the South is fighting cold this winter

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  • Mary Alice Powell.
    Mary Alice Powell.

    AIKEN, S.C. — Pride in my home state has been a lifetime commitment. It has always seemed proper to defend Michigan and to extol the beauty and environmental benefits of the Great Lakes.

    Personal bragging rights include Ohio because of my many years living and working in Toledo.

    Despite extensive traveling throughout the United States and the world, and an occasional thought to pull up stakes and move, I have continued to defend Michigan and Ohio as prime places to live, work, and appreciate heritage.

    But this winter, long-distance cheerleading in Florida and now in South Carolina for the two northern states has been challenging.

    When I tell anyone, be it a store clerk, a waiter, or someone at the communal breakfast table that I am from Michigan, the instant response is negative. I sometimes believe they look at me wondering why anyone would voluntarily live in a deep freeze and admit it. A gas station clerk even said if it’s so wonderful up there, why aren’t you there?

    The idea that it is always cold “up there” is the most aggravating opinion. People in the South only talk about our winters, which of course has been a major topic of conversation this year.

    But, what about the other three seasons?

    Even the people who have moved from Michigan to the South seem to have forgotten that winter is but one fourth of the whole picture and that those of us who were born, raised, and continue to live there anticipate the different characteristics as the seasons change. In mid January when bone-chilling temperatures continue, it is easy to overlook the coming of spring when Mother Nature magically brings back the vegetation that has been in waiting under the deep snow.

    Occasionally I feel guilty for this winter’s sojourn, but it hasn’t been toasty warm here either.

    When the temperature dropped to 10 degrees the city of Aiken panicked. School openings were delayed two hours so that the children would not have to wait for the buses outdoors.

    Plumbers were in demand fixing broken water pipes in businesses and private homes.

    Because I foolishly didn’t pack a heavy winter coat, I have had to dress in layers with two sweatshirts topped by a jacket and scarf.

    My procrastination has proved beneficial, however. The bag of clothing destined for the Salvation Army that was still in the trunk of the car included a hat and gloves. Both have been added to my southern wardrobe.

    Equally useful are the contents of a second bag in the car trunk that didn’t make it to Pride Cleaners before I left. It was exciting to open it and find a cashmere sweater, wool slacks, and a wool sweater. Being warm is good wherever you are.

    Being assured that things are OK back home in my absence during this abnormally cold winter has only been possible with the help of several people through telephone calls and emails. Now with a second house in Grand Rapids, concerns have doubled.

    When the temperature dropped below zero I asked that friends raise the furnace gauges in both houses to 65 from 55 and to open all the doors in the house. While broken pipes were a concern, my biggest worries always when I travel are the cats at Posey Lake.

    I considered bringing Geranium, the oldest, with me. But then I decided that putting the old girl first on a plane, in several hotels, and a six-hour car ride would be selfish. Besides, cats don’t take well to change.

    She, Hemingway, and Lydia have all of their usual comforts in the house with ample caregivers. Sandy Moses of Hudson is there every three days to feed and water them and Therese Stump, my longtime helper, stops in Monday afternoons to check on things and tidy up.

    Predictions of one and two feet of snow in Lenawee County caused more than one sleepless night as I worried about the safety of the outdoor cats. I left the garage open enough for them to get in and had built a shelter of tarps over the outdoor furniture on the open front porch, but I still worried.

    Once again, because of a caring friend I believe the outdoor cats are safe and sound. Ruth Anne Walsh braved the heavy snow to drive to Posey Lake from Swanton with several bags of wood shavings that she used to insulate the garage. The shavings were from the supply she uses for the horses at her farm. She also returned two weeks later to make sure all was in order and called to reassure me it was.

    That’s when I bundled up and went out to a nearby Aiken bistro for a glass of wine to toast my very special friends. Then, why not, a second glass was raised to my smart cats back home in Michigan.

    Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com