Missing a familiar WPR feature

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Posted by KH D. on January 14, 2010 at 10:16:22:

Karl Garson: Missing the all's well at bedtime

"I just got an e-mail from my friend J.

J teaches writing at a PAC-10 university, has written a whole bunch of books - novels, poetry - and has a farm tucked into the Cascade foothills.

As usual, J e-mailed about the weather. It was raining hard where she was, with wind and temperatures in the '40s. And she had to be out driving in it later.

I e-mailed back the clear, calm, 4 below, and that I wasn't driving anywhere.

J and I seldom exchange notes about writing or anything else until we've touched on the current weather. It's a ritual that's become our cyber handshake, our way of saying that in spite of anything else that may be going on, we're weathering the storm, however benign or severe it might be.

With respect to the weather, the advent of the Internet and all of its children has changed nothing. I was away from Wisconsin for the two decades after the '70s. When I came back and found a farm in Crawford County for Peggy and myself, I was dismayed to find out that Wisconsin Public Radio had scrapped one of the things I liked about it best - the brief weather report from all of the stations that marked sign off every evening.

In the mid-'70s, a few or more years before I left Wisconsin for a while, I was living in a small cabin in the Marathon County woods. One of those winters, at night, the moisture in the poplar trees would freeze so rapidly the woods surrounding the cabin would fill with the sound of random rifle shots - the sound of the trunks suddenly splitting open.

Amid all that might come the whine of a late plane descending to the north at the Central Wisconsin Airport. And then the Wausau station would switch from classical music to sign off and the other stations would begin to report: Madison, La Crosse among the southern tier, then the stations in the north where it was very, very cold: Superior, Rhinelander, Wausau, Grantsburg and the rest.

After that, the long, Wisconsin, winter night would descend with the silence. I'd turn the control on the wood stove down to ensure there'd be coals with which to start the new fire in the morning. And my two cats would line up along the bed, ready to push in against the side of my sleeping bag.

It was very good to sleep like that, knowing that those clear voices from around the state had assured me all was well, that despite a cold the folks to the south could not imagine, up here in Wisconsin we were ending a day and looking forward to a next, in spite of any forecast, with an all's well.

I may have slept as well since. But never better in a home, suite or king non-smoking anywhere that's allowed me to sleep as well as when Wisconsin Public Radio with its weather sign-off would put me safely to bed.

The weather-mails that J and I exchange speak to the wider range of things we all have in common. Our opinions might differ about what those other things might be. Yet no matter what else each of us has going on in our lives, we have at least this one thing that will go on for all of us no matter what.

We talk about the weather to tell each other that we are one.

Garson lives in Soldiers Grove."

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