It’s so dangerously cold that skin freezes in minutes. Yes, minutes. Exposed hair grows icicles. Hair hanging out of toques, eye lashes, beards, eyebrows turn white and crispy with tiny stalactites. Every morning I am layered like a pleasant smelling Ukrainian nesting doll. Somewhere under the ski pants, the regular pants, the thermal underwear and the regular underwear is me. Let’s add Sorel boots, a fleece vest, sweater, parka and other winter accessories to the ensemble. It’s not pretty. It’s not fashion. To quote my friend Elaina it’s survival gear. And she’s right.
I walk, even in this cold. I could drive but I’m 15 minutes from work. By the time I warm up my car, and sweep all the snow off of it I’d be half way to work so instead I take that 15 minutes to my mental advantage. In fact trudging through snow with all that gear on is also my work out. This morning it was -29 Celsius. That’s -20 for you Fahrenheit folks. I’m inside but chilled again, just thinking about it.
Agreements with the weather
My cowboy friend Greg has often tried to convince me to make an agreement with the weather. Specifically the wind. I’m still working on it but as I sit in this dangerously cold spell of mid winter I shake my head at the idea that these temperatures are dangerous. Yesterday was -36 Celsius temperatures. That didn’t include the wind. I understand what he’s getting at. I need to accept it. I mean I don’t have much of an option at this point. Would I miss the winter if I lived somewhere tropical? I’m not sure.
Marianne Williamson says that a miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love. She’s 100% correct. That is a miracle. Although the first half of this post describes the wickedness of this time of year and how unbearably cruel winter can be I’d like to shift my perception a little to consider what winter has given me.
Gratitude: I am grateful for all the gear that keeps me warm and my home and furnace. It wasn’t always this simple. There were years in my old house where the pipes froze and leaked in the basement. The furnace died on the coldest night of the year. I didn’t have enough money to purchase a proper parka. With a grateful heart I can say that these circumstance have changed.
Excuses: When it’s so absolutely undeniably cold no one complains when you turn down an invitation. Everyone understands when you put something off until it warms up. Each and every excuse during the cold is accepted—with understanding.
Patience: At every other time of year getting where I want to go is reduced to a basic simplicity. I just go. But, in the winter, I have processes: dressing up, warming the car, cleaning off the car, keeping things in handy pockets. Icy streets slow me down I exercise patience with others as they also grapple with situations brought about by this kind of temperature drop. I slow down—even if I don’t want to. I am reminded there is more than one speed to accomplishing tasks.
Perception: All this white isn’t just white. It’s reflective. A sunset reflects on snow and tree tops making things much more colorful than we think. We just have to notice. The softness of snowfall is pretty. The vibration of sound is muffled from the insulation of snow, making things quieter. Contrasts are also more obvious. Shadows cast more solid on a white blanket than a field of grass. There is beauty in winter.
Pluses: The list off pluses is not epically long but it is not beyond me to appreciate certain things that are more feasible in the winter. Hot baths. Candle light at all hours as there is so little day light. Fire places. Hot chocolate. Tea. Coffee. Steamy showers. Hot baths. Cozy sweaters. Heavy blankets. Spicy foods. Soup! Hats! Scarves! Time indoors. Sunrises and sunsets (they are easier to catch as they happen ‘during’ the day). Baking. It smells good and warms the house. And inevitably chasing those beams of sunshine that come through frosty windows that make me look like a giant hairless cat.
So, here I am trying to love the winter—trying to appreciate what it gives me and trying to make the most of these days that I cannot control. If I fight it I get tuckered. If I agree with it it’s less of a dispute. Ahhh…now I see what my cowboy friend, Greg, was getting at.
In any case, I’m still hypervigilant with my weather app. I’m still incredibly aware of the dangers of this kind of cold and I am also willing to shift a little in my ideas about this season…while I’m under my blankets, holding a cup of hot tea, wearing a toque in front of the fireplace.