The Sun and its furry companions

The sun rises over the courtyard near my apartment in December, displaying Sun Dogs.
The sun rises over the courtyard near my apartment in December, displaying Sun Dogs.

On a Sunday in January, the cold Minnesota morning greeted me with a welcome sight. The Sun had strolled about 20 degrees into the sky, and he had with him two of his dogs, who frolicked about in the lazy breeze.

For those less familiar with these pets, a “Sun Dog” is an atmospheric phenomenon that creates light formations in the sky alongside the sun. Sun Dogs are created when sunlight is refracted by ice crystals that drift through the air in very cold weather.

Those of us who live in Minnesota have been treated to this rare phenomenon for several months now — first, when we saw the Sun Dogs as our temps plummeted in early December, and then, when we brought in the New Year under dangerous wind chills. They have continued to appear throughout the month of January.

I first saw the Sun walking his dogs when I was out walking my own dog in December. Both my dog and I were bundled up in coats and boots, braving subzero temps for our morning routine. My face and nose were freezing, and my clothes were doing little to deflect the wind chill.

I rushed my dog out to the fenced yard about a block away, and on the horizon I saw two perfect crescent-shaped rainbows flanking the Sun. I hurried my dog back inside, but even as I did, I kept looking over my shoulder at the rare sunrise.

Against my better judgement, I grabbed my camera and raced back out into the frigid cold, hoping to capture the phenomenon in photos. I got the shot, as did many Minnesotans that day. The images turned up across the Internet and in local newscasts that day — images that could only be captured in bitter cold.

One for the dogs

Our New Year’s Eve in Minnesota was so cold that I literally didn’t know what to do. The whole state was under crazy winter weather advisories, and everyone I knew was hibernating at home. Many of us had been hibernating for the better part of December.

I, too, had been spending long hours at home. I had more time to be alone than I was comfortable with, and my extravagant plans to get out of the house were failing left and right. Mostly due to weather. Even our holiday travels were boxed in by icy roads on both ends.

I kept asking myself, ‘How do you ring in a New Year in hibernation?’

On December 31st, I found myself thinking about all I have lost since my father died on New Year’s Day in 2009, and I was at a loss myself. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I sat at home, facing a New Year filled with opportunity, but still missing my late parents and late brothers. I was caught somewhere between joy and excitement, and loneliness and regret.

It took a while before I was finally able to sort through my feelings, and it took all the strength I had to go on celebrating.

Many of our friends were unavailable on New Year’s Eve, but Matt and I felt uplifted when an old college friend called on us. It was too cold to be out at midnight, with the wind chill approaching -40, so we spent the evening at home clinking glasses to an unpredictable New Year.

We had a nice time, but I have certainly had better years — years when I have been able to enter the New Year brimming with confidence, despite the challenges that face us.

A walk in the light

It only took until January 2nd, before things began to defrost.

Temperatures gradually began to climb, though it was still bitterly cold outside. And I began to find ways to warm up my spirit.

That day, I landed a second interview with a local college, and one week later I accepted a part-time position there. I also applied to get into new art exhibits, and I signed up for two new writing courses at The Loft Literary Center — a place that feeds my literary soul.

The novel I’m writing has also started to take shape, and it is beginning to look like it may have a chance at publication, even in today’s competitive market. It just may take a few years to finish the manuscript. Fortunately, though, I have found a balance of work and art that will allow me to keep writing and painting.

With warm memories behind me and bright opportunities ahead, I’m going to muster the courage it takes to keep walking under wind chill.

It’s no secret. This girl is no friend of subzero temperatures.

Still, I’ll try to keep my head up, notice the beauty of winter all around me, and let my thoughts be warmed by the light. Maybe I’ll even meet a few more Sun Dogs!


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