NATURE NUGGETS: A BIRTHDAY SNOWSTORM BY SALLY BAIR

My twin sister, Sandy, and I share a December birthday but since high school have rarely celebrated the day together. In 1995 we decided it was way past time and we chose the week of December 3, the week we’d turn 59.

Sandy, living in southern Michigan, and I in northwest Wisconsin, decided to meet halfway. We chose a resort on Norway Lake in Upper Michigan, a six-hour drive for each of us. She reserved a cabin for five days. We couldn’t have chosen more perfect weather to begin our celebration. The thermometer registered a sunny 35 degrees as I headed east while she drove north then west toward our destination.

Our first two nights there, we slept well in our cabin, once the proprietor told us how to operate the propane heater-furnace. The third day brought too much ice for skiing, so we took a slip-sliding hike along a side road. Ah, the clean, fresh air of the Upper Peninsula (UP)! But by the time we returned from our walk, the wind had picked up. Snow fell off and on, too, typical for northern Michigan where average snowfalls reach more than 200 inches a year.

Without TV, we had no idea what to expect of the weather. Nor did we care. This would our time to spend together. To relax and write (she was a wannabe writer, I a published author) and enjoy our shared birthday.

By nightfall the now-gale force wind led me to turn my expectations down a notch or two … or ten. We sat huddled in front of the heater, tablets on our lap, cold fingers determined to write something. Anything. Cold, and tired from our earlier walk, we retired early. And shivered. All night long we heard the furnace blower and felt frigid air blow in from the uninsulated log walls.

Long before daylight we crawled out of bed, dragging our blankets with us to sit—again—in front of the furnace. By mid-morning we needed a diversion so walked, or rather blew, to a nearby craft store where I bought an overpriced but welcome sweatshirt. Desperate for a weather forecast, we learned from the clerk that we were having gale warnings and that Montana had experienced damaging, 180-mile-an-hour winds. We pushed our way back to the cabin, heads down, noses and mouths covered, to make a stab at more writing. We could have left early for home, but for two reasons. Neither of us wanted to cut our special celebration short, and I would have to face the fierce, west wind traveling back home.

By nightfall the wind had diminished enough so we felt a tad more comfortable in the cabin and actually slept well. So the next morning we tried skiing. With no trails nearby, our skis sank too deep into the snow to maneuver far. And the road offered little purchase for our skis. Too slippery. Back to the cabin to write some more and talk and laugh. During that night it snowed and blew. Again.

Our final morning. The cold cabin pushed us to pack in a hurry and be on our way home. Wild weather stole fond goodbyes from our lips, forcing us to share quick hugs. Sandy headed east then south toward the famous, five-mile Mackinaw Bridge. Soon after she crossed, the bridge closed because of high winds.

I hadn’t traveled too far west toward home before the snow came down in earnest. I clutched the steering wheel, concentrating on keeping my car tires aligned with the deep ruts made by vehicles ahead of me. Around noon, I saw school buses dropping off kids who had been let out of class early. Slowly slipping and sliding, I made my way west along the ruts, behind the buses and large trucks, praying I’d not run out of windshield washer fluid. Through each town I passed, I debated about stopping at a motel for the night. But veering off the only ruts that kept me going might mean getting stuck. In a ditch, in a snowbank … away from my warm, cozy house. Along with the car heater, I kept my prayers going full blast.

Three interminable, tense hours later, I skidded into our driveway. My husband met me at the car door.

“I can’t believe you drove home in this. The wind chill is 65 below! Why didn’t you find a place to spend another night?”

I burst into tears. “I’m so thankful to be home,” was all I could manage as I forced my fingers to uncurl. Then I smiled, knowing God had kept me safe all along. A favorite Bible verse came to mind. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Yet Sandy and I haven’t shared a birthday since.

How has the Lord answered one of your prayers?