Being cold a lot is good for the ingenuity. There a lot of ways to get warm, both literally and figuratively. Ignore the folks from more blessed climes who try to tell you that it’s like hitting yourself with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop. So what.
I can’t lie; it’s not paradise. Winter is too long,
too cold, with more than our fair share of snow
(though not quite so much as in years past).
I was reminded of it this week by a little thing.
The thermometer went to 30 below overnight,
and didn’t rise above zero all the next day—
old-school cold. And there I was again, dressing
myself while standing on top of the heat vent.
I worry little about the cold these days, having
a reliable furnace and sufficient funds to fuel it.
It also helps to avoid going outdoors too much
between Thanksgiving and Mothers’ Day.
But having enough heat passes for prosperity
in a northern winter. Just ask anyone without it.
Though a woodstove and woodlot can do in lieu
of income. Nothing like cold feet up on a boot rail.
Winter got set into my bones when I was knee high.
Out sledding, fingers so froze I cried as they thawed.
Hypothermia from biking the paper route. Waking
to an icy heat vent when the coal stoker crapped out.
Which it did on a regular basis– mid-century tech
welded to a 1920s cellar monster. And walls filled
with 1800s insulation, bricks stacked in between studs.
You could hang a wind chime in front of the window draft.
These days two-incomes keep us warm and cozy, mostly,
though it’s never safe to take that for granted. For instance,
when sleet fell for a week straight in 1998 we had no power,
no cook stove, no water. And all of the trees were falling.
Everyone poor and cold again–except, of course, the Amish.
Luckily we found ourselves rich in friends, who took us in,
and warmed by the way folks pitched in and helped out
all over the North Country to make it whole once more.
It all comes back to mind, triggered by that moment—
bare feet on a warn steel grate, warm air billowing
up my bathrobe, looking out into the whiteness
through hoar-frosted glass at the creaking tress.