Published June 9, 2022

She's Not From Around Here: I Wasn't Prepared for Summer

Written by
Amy Allender
| The Dakotan
Just me taking in the Scandinavian Heritage Park [Photo: Amy Allender]
Just me taking in the Scandinavian Heritage Park [Photo: Amy Allender]

When my husband and I found out we would be moving to North Dakota, we got lots of unsolicited comments and advice.

“Hope you like the cold.”

“Have fun in the great white north — it’s just ice and wind up there.”

“Why not Minot? Freezin’ is the reason. Haha!”

“Winters last forever.”

While these folks were trying to be helpful or prepare us for our new life, they failed to properly prepare us. You see, this kind of talk prepared us for the cold temperatures, ice, and heavy snowfall. We came to North Dakota ready to upgrade our winter coats and hunker down through long stretches of short, dark days.

However, no one prepared us for the North Dakota summer.

We arrived in Hot Dish Territory in June, only to be gobsmacked by the majesty of summer in the “great white north.”

Maybe there’s no proper way to fully prepare oneself for the sun-never-setting days of a NoDak summer.

Summer in North Dakota means waking to a soft chatter of birds and bits of light sneaking through the blackout curtains early in the morning. It’s days hot enough to enjoy the pool, splash pad, or a sprinkler in the yard followed by evenings cool enough for sweatshirts and s’mores around a fire.

Our summer is filled with a disorienting amount of light. The kind that makes it easy to get out of bed in a good mood. The kind that draws neighbors out of their houses to converge on sidewalks chatting late into the evening. The kind that tempts children to stay outdoors until minutes before bedtime, causes adults to forget to prepare dinner until 8 p.m., and means you can start mowing the lawn at 9 p.m. and still finish with daylight to spare.

Yes, I was prepared for the extremely short days of winter — but I wasn’t prepared for the natural high of life lived in extreme amounts of daylight.

Here, summer is held in the beauty of purple flax, vibrant yellow canola, and sunflowers stretching to the horizon. It’s noticing white boxes filled with honey bees and hearing the distinct whistle of a meadowlark as you drive along the outskirts of town. It’s a time to be awed by the miracle of planting, agriculture, and the heroism of farmers who harness nature to produce our nations crops.

I came here ready to invest in warmer boots, but I wasn’t anticipating the wonder summer would stir in my heart.

This wonder is not reserved for the country. Small town summer life emanates a unique atmosphere. It’s a divine mix of food trucks, festivals, and movies and music in the parks. This is the season of bumping into someone you know nearly everywhere you go: walks, errands, romps on the playground, or outings at the zoo. This is the time for small talking with strangers — the pressing hurry of winter has eased, leaving us all content to connect under the warmth of the sun.

These precious warm months are meant for excursions to Whirl-a-Whip, loosening schedules, and root beer floats at MSU’s summer theater.

No one told me to brace myself for the most pleasant summers of my life. No one told me the summer is worth waiting through every brutal windchill of winter.

Summer in North Dakota is fika, an odd affinity for Dairy Queen, and giggling as locals complain about the humidity. Summer is the smell of the splash pad, music on Main Street, and never starting the day in the dark.

Let’s not let the beauty of summer be overshadowed by the cold of winter. Not only when we speak about our sweet Hot Dish Land, but of life. Let’s remind one another of the good, let’s brace one another for the possibility of warmth and beauty — instead of simply focusing on the inevitable windchill. North Dakota is more than winter. Life is more than the hard bits. Summer comes, too.

Let’s brace ourselves to enjoy the lovely seasons as much we prepare to weather the cold.

If you’re new here or will move here soon, be ready — not only for the winter, but also for utterly exquisite summers.

(To connect with me further, or see how I make the most of these lovely months, join me on Facebook @amyallenderblog or Instagram @amy_allender.)

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