Last year, on the morning of the festival, on his way to work in the Big City, Ray was sideswiped on I-29 and his pickup (with Ray clinging to the steering wheel) rolled into the ditch. His pickup was a gonner. Thankfully, Ray was unhurt, though shaken and stirred.
This year, on the morning of the festival, Jack Blizzard came up with a funny practical joke. After a week of temps in the 50’s and 60’s, robins returning in droves (flocks…whatever), peacocks fanning spectacular spring trains at restless peahens, and students trekking to classes in cutoffs & flip-flops, Jack turned a cold shoulder and crusted us all with ice in a late winter Midwestern storm.
I slalomed into Little Town at 7 a.m. A half-inch glaze covered everything. But, in spite of numerous cancellations, the festival went on. All four brave poets made it to town, poured their hearts & souls into workshops with only a few hearty participants, and gave stellar readings for sparse but eager audiences. And the slam at the end of the night was a chaotic, wildly entertaining “hoot,” to use the South Dakota jargon. I tobogganned back home again at 10 p.m., exhausted but happy.
I should have known it was coming. It may be partly Jack’s Festival Curse, but Ray says there’s always one more blizzard after the robins return. And, I was getting too complacent, too spring-minded. I let down my guard. I wore short sleeves. I leafed through seed catalogues. I turned on the outside water.
Maybe the true meaning of “spring fever” is this sudden illness where South Dakotans go blindly out, mole-like after long winter months knitting in the dark under a blankie. We go out uncoated, shield our eyes from the unfamiliar brightness, rake the yard with overgrown fingernails, searching for signs of life. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight.
This morning, I walked outside and found the prayer flags stiff, coated in an icy sheen. Tiny icicles shimmered along the strings of lights over the patio. The peahens were waking up, perched in a jeweled tree that cast rainbow refractions in the sunlit air. So Jack might have tripped us up again, but prairie people don’t stay down. I like to think Jack's off sulking somewhere today, annoyed as hell that I’m GRATEFUL for his mischief, and for the brief, breathtaking beauty it left behind. Take that, Jack.