I wasn’t homesick at all until November 1st.
It’s true. For as much as I love Missoula I didn’t only not miss it, I didn’t even really think about it.
That changed on the first day of November, when my social media feeds started filling up with photos of the steel-colored, low-clouded skies that will mark Missoula through April. Those were followed by photos of the snow line moving down Mt. Sentinel. Then followed by short videos of flurries, whirling about the faded denim light during what passes for late “afternoon” as winter moves in. Even photos of cars gently skidded off the road as drivers learned to adapt (once again) to the snow (come on, you guys. You live in Montana.) made me nostalgic. The final kicker was a shot of my local coffee shop, gleaming warm with light in the pitch black of an early Missoula morning in autumn.
So yeah, it took the prospect of Missoula’s six-month long winter season to make me homesick. I love Botswana. It’s easily my favorite country. But I don’t think it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be in Missoula for winter. And it’s funny, because so many people hate winter in Missoula. Most of those social media posts were not from happy Missoulians. The closest most people got was a resigned acceptance somewhere along the lines of “well, at least everything isn’t on fire anymore.”
Winter in Missoula is not magical. It’s grey. And cloudy. We don’t see the sun for months. The inversion gets so bad that people have to drive out of town to remember what the sky looks like. We often don’t get much snow, so there isn’t anything pretty to look at. The wind cuts so cold that, once, the batteries in my iPod died the moment I walked outside. Our pipes froze three times last winter. Every year we’re too lazy to rake up our leaves, which then freeze solid and ruin the yard and make a ton more work when spring actually comes, sometime mid- to late-June.
And yet. . .
I love it. And I’m missing it.
I miss it getting dark at 4pm. I miss curling up with a book in our tiny living room, the rest of the house dark but for this one warm space, cozy and bright and quiet for reading. I miss the smell of huge pots of soup on the stove on Sunday afternoons. I miss having five or six afghans on the bed, in addition to the down blanket, just to stay warm at night. I miss leggings and socks and sweaters and boots. A photo from my favorite bookshop, of a reading, depicted steamed up windows and rows and rows of puffy coats hanging off the back of chairs. I nearly swooned.
It’s funny how 10,000 miles can put a strange shine on things. I sort of miss the idea of scraping the windows of the Jeep off with a credit card when I’m late to pick up the kids and can’t find the actual ice scraper. I wonder with a touch of awe what it will be like to not have to smear thick cream all over my hands to keep them from cracking and bleeding this year. Somehow, the fact that the wind in Missoula can freeze your nose hairs seems quaint from this distance.
Right now, here in Gaborone, it is Sunday afternoon. There is no soup on the stove. There is no wind; there are no flakes piling against the window. It will be light for many hours, and not that soft, washed-out-blue-light. I’m most certainly not wearing sweaters or leggings or socks. I didn’t even bother to bring boots. I got a sunburn, sitting in the shade. Steve just took off his shirt because it’s so damn hot. We have a fly in the house, as we keep hoping that propping the front door open will result in some slight cross breeze. We’re sleeping on top of the covers at night. The sun is a little too bright, a little too harsh, a little too hot.
So that’s how the homesickness finally hit. I’m sure it isn’t helped by the fact that I’ve had two (full! In a row!) days off of work for the first time since August and am just lounging around reading books and thinking of winter. And I’m sure that when I next find myself rooting around for a credit card to scrape the ice off the Jeep (which Steve insists is part of responsible winter driving), I’ll wish I was sitting in the hot summer sun.
*Cover photo credit Katie Heckert. On Instagram @ktbh79. Check out her work – it’s incredible.*