It’s cold here.
I realize that I start at least one column like that each year during the January and February months, but the type of cold we periodically experience here in Wisconsin — American Canada, natch — is of the sort of intensity that bears repeating… and repeating and repeating. Granted, this isn’t as bad as it could be in other parts of the country, but if I lived in North Dakota, you wouldn’t even be reading this; you’d just be directed to the Metro Spirit website, where my entire entry for the week would be a 20-minute audio clip of me fighting off undead wolves with a spare icicle. At around the 14-minute mark, my howls become only faintly human.
As of this moment, it’s 1 degree here. Style-wise, you’re not really supposed to use the number key for amounts less than two digits, but that scrawny integer there so perfectly underscores the scant warmth it represents, while the word “one” just brings to mind that stupid U2 song. So really, it’s a no-brainer. For some context, here’s a few of the things that can happen when it’s 1 degree outside:
- Ice just sort of… happens. We’re not even entirely sure where it comes from. It snowed last night, so the ground is a little slippery, but it’s been consistently this cold for a few days now, so there’s been no melting and re-freezing. And yet, shuffling through the snow on the sidewalk — the only safe way to get around on foot — you’ll inevitably slip on an icy patch, do what we call the “Wisconsin Windmill” and, probably, fall down. The good news is that no one will notice you, probably, because six other people will be doing the same thing within a 50-foot radius.
- You start to understand that your house does not actually have a consistent climate. Take ours, for example. We just moved into this place — our first home that we actually own — a little more than a month ago, and things are generally good. Still, like most houses built more than 50 years ago, it’s got some kinks, and those kinks have mostly to do with it being drafty and sparsely insulated. For instance, I’m writing this in our study right now because it’s by far the warmest room in the house. It’s small, has only one exposed wall, and there’s a heating vent about three feet from the desk. And that one wall, facing our backyard, is cold. The same wall, by the way, extends into our bedroom, which has an additional exposed wall. This is where we sleep, and this is why we got flannel sheets — which are, by the way, amazing.
- It’s deceptively pretty. And I’m not just talking about the snow, which is truthfully very, very beautiful. We had a particularly fluffy snowfall last night, and this morning the ground looks pristinely white, the sunrise glinting off of it in a way that is almost sickeningly similar to a Thomas Kinkade “painting.” There’s also a sledding hill across the street from our place and, on most days like this, a gaggle of parents and children would be out there making full use of it. But not today. And this is common; around here, it seems, the pastoral beauty of our landscape is in directly opposite proportion to how bone-numbingly cold it is outside. I’m looking at it right now, and it barely looks real. Eventually, though, I’ll have to step outside, and then I will know. Oh God, I will know.
And I know that Georgians go through something similar every year, but with heat instead of cold; it’s one of the reasons I didn’t hesitate much to move away. Bitter cold might stop you in your tracks, but a blast of midday heat that literally knocks you back into your house when you try to open your front door is a scary, scary thing.
This, I think, is my point: it’s just me, but the cold mobilizes me, and I like that. Intense heat reduces me to a useless heap of skin and hair that once resembled a human being, but the cold forces me to get moving, and keep moving, in order to stay warm. There’s really no other option, and I’m the kind of person who needs that constant nudge-nudge in my life; too often I’m in danger of becoming complacent, and that perpetual reminder that things need to get done is necessary for me.
When I finish this, I’m going to suit up, go outside and sweep/shovel/chip away the snow that’s piled up in our driveway and on the sidewalk outside the house. I’m going to check the gutters for icicles, a sign of leakage. I’m going to move quickly through my day, because I’ve got precious little choice in the matter.
And after all that, I’m going to pray that it’s at least in the double digits this time next week so I’m not tempted to rehash this column. Again.