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I can’t say whether it is ironic or a simple example of natural justice that going south is not a natural option for me. I live where southward ends in less than 100 feet. Beyond that distance south is not a practical course unless I want wet feet or have a boat (and a fairly big one at that) handy. With the approach of November there will soon be days when the southern boundary moves up toward me as sets of curling waves shrink the 100 foot limit by one half as the shore churns in heavy storm. During those approaching days and during near half a year to follow not many among us would consider going southerly direct from my front yard. In my particular location going east, west, or north are the only ways I can go. Other than in theory, for me south does not begin until I reach Duluth, almost three hours away from home. Residents of the Twin Ports may not see it so, but for such as me the south does not begin until my tires reach one of the main southbound feeders. One wouldn’t know it by the accents, but for someone coming from up the shore as I do the south begins at Duluth Superior. I’m sure many of the Canadians who will begin snow birding soon don’t feel they are actually going south until I 35 is under their wheels. The scent of Magnolias cannot be detected at Duluth, but those heading south know that in a few days of hard driving they will be nearer the hurricane coast where the palmetto and other bugs await. It is a swap of one form of bad weather for another with one manner of insect annoyance replacing another, but as this can be experienced in flip-flops instead of mukluks all is considered well. The ocean air may smell like a seaweed cesspool, but if the breeze is above freezing northern faces will wear an appearance of rapt enjoyment. It seems odd, but the northerner who frets over every penny of home heating cost is OK paying for air conditioning for the great joy of stepping out his or her trailer door knowing there is not a snow shovel to be had for hundreds of miles.
The lack (or effective absence) of south in my life has never been much problem. When my family migrated to Minnesota I was boundlessly happy to leave behind the Illinois heat. Age eleven, I was not a pudgy child but distinctly recall profuse sweating from doing nothing. We couldn’t afford air conditioning so the only cool part of our house was the basement. As it was dark down there and probably had spiders the cooler air was difficult for me to appreciate as I’d like. After a few minutes the creepy feeling would win and I’d run like hell for the sweltry upstairs. Dark colored cars were effectively people ovens. These turned into grills or fryers when plastic seat covers came into use and a child in shorts had to sit on one. In hot, humid Illinois even shorts felt like far too much clothing to wear. I’d have gladly gone without but was not allowed this practical form of cooling. The Nuns at St. John’s were particularly insistent about dress, though how they stood the climate in full Felician Habit with only hands and a bit of face showing is beyond me to understand. Despite being daily cooked to well-done they were tough women. It wasn’t rebellion that drove me to shed pajamas at night. They were simply too hot as was the bed under me. How I envied horses being able to sleep standing! I tried my best to master the trick, which needless to say I never did. Instead the thump of my fall drew attention and I’d be yelled at. To avoid the bruises and escape the accusations I switched from standing to kneeling on my bed with head on pillow. When I eventually fell over there was no crash, injury, or explaining to do.
For me, when it came to personal comfort the north won on all counts. Occasional family visits to Illinois in summer were descents into Hades where I’d be driven to revert to my old habit of three-point sleeping, much to the amusement of cousins all too happy to report on my odd behavior. No one believed my explanation of “It’s cooler.” Looking back, I can’t say I blame them as it must have seemed suspiciously odd as the reports made it. Returning north held the prospect of cooler nights and no one looking at me sideways like I might suddenly run amok with something far worse than sleeping on knees and head.
I think I have a near complete lack of south in my life. I’ve yet to head that way for a single vacation though I did once visit some family in Northern California. See how north comes into it again? And, besides, as everyone knows even though California is south of us it is actually west, isn’t it? If you were asked list southern states would California be there? Would it?
But, as I’ve only gone west once in life that direction is as rare in my life as south is. I know it is not reasonable to have a compass where only two directions are in frequent use, but I suspect I will go to my dying days wearing out north and east while south and west pine in virginal hope of a long last visitation. North and east don’t have this worry. To them I have and will go. Been east almost far as the border of Russia and somehow never felt the urge to turn south to end up in Italy or Greece. Spain, essentially north of the Greco Roman world, is no-less south to me. The makers of SPF don’t benefit from me, but if luck and habit prevail I may get to Trondheim where the Tirpitz met its end.