Cold

frost hand

When I came up the house yesterday morning, my mother was in full rant mode. I encouraged her to blog about it at our new Plummer’s Hollow site.

Many schools were cancelled including Tyrone. I couldn’t believe it. In Maine, at 40 below, I removed the heater from the car engine, bundled baby Mark in layers of clothes, and took Steve to first grade and Dave to nursery school in our Volkswagen bus that never warmed up above zero during our half hour ride. No one ever talked of calling school because of the cold.

And here, one year when Bruce was off to a conference in January and the boys had to get to school on their own, I walked them the two miles down to town at zero degrees, we stopped at a restauarant and they had hot chocolate to warm up, and then they walked on to school while I walked home. I remember the hoarfrost clinging to the trees beside the river and forming on my hair. In those days, Tyrone didn’t cancel school because of the cold. No wonder kids stay indoors like their parents, mesmerized by technology and getting fatter day by day. The outdoors has become something to fear.

I feel much the same way. Pennsylvanians have always been weather-wimps, and they seem to be getting worse. Plus, weather forecasts weren’t as hysterical back in the seventies and eighties, when we regularly got alot more snow and cold than we get now. Sometime in the past ten years, I became aware of the fact that the threat of virtually any measurable snowfall, or temperatures falling below 10F, is an occasion for a “winter weather advisory,” a “winter storm warning,” or a “winter storm watch” (possibly a misuse of the National Weather Service terminology). The wind-chill factor was just beginning to take hold when I was a kid; now, it’s almost constantly on the lips of broadcasters eager to keep people inside and glued to their TVs or radios.

However, I must admit I’m not as cold-hardy as either of my parents. Both sleep with one of the windows open in their bedrooms, even at two below F with a howling wind. “Well, I have a really warm comforter,” Mom told me. “And when it’s really cold like this, I tie a sweater around my head.” Ohhhh…kay.

knot (detail)

This seems like a good juncture to remind everyone that qarrtsiluni will be soliciting for contributions to the current theme, “Come Outside”, only through the 15th. Our guest editor, Fiona Robyn, has been doing a fantastic job acquiring, editing and assembling posts to go up at the rate of five a week; by Friday we will have welcomed our tenth new contributor since the middle of January. I hope some more of our past contributors will feel inspired to send stuff in, as well. And of course, we welcome just plain readers, too! If you like what you see there, please help spread the word.

snow boot

I’ve been getting outside as I can, both to snap pictures and to do a little bit of sledding. I do wish it would warm up enough to snow some more; the snow cover we have is so thin that strong sunlight is enough to melt it off on south-facing slopes, even with temperatures in the single digits.

My apologies to subscribers for the duplicate posting. I’ll blame it on my half-frozen typing fingers.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

14 Comments


  1. I like the photos very much and sympathize with Marcia’s rant…people have gotten soft and wimpy on suburban comforts… vicarious living… proxy living…why experience anything when you can watch it on tv or the internets ? It doesn’t help to have weather people using the word “dangerous” when describing conditions. The fearmongers are at work here.

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  2. School was canceled for Pocahontas County today as well. Since I’m a peripheral employee, I’ve learned that each year they plan their calendar to include a number of snow days. If they don’t use them all, or if they must use too many, they run into various accounting problems, and they violate various state and federal regulations. November, December, and January have passed with few school cancellations, so I suspect the Board of Education is trying to burn up those excess instructional days.

    It is cold, though. it’s 46 F in the kitchen, and our waterpipes froze in the pump house yesterday despite the heat lamp we run there. Maybe the heater and the new, additional heat lamp will thaw it out today. Otherwise, tomorrow we’ll take a torch to the pipes.

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  3. I just absolutely love that first photo! And yes, we are turning into weather wimps in the same way in Canada! I used to think we’re just getting soft on the West Coast, but the weather has been getting warmer on average. The cold never bothered me until the past year or two when my body regulation has changed such that my “comfort” zone has narrowed to within a few degrees. I’m forever taking off layers and putting them back on. Must be old age creeping in, heh.
    But your mom has a point. The more we spend time outdoors the hardier we’d be.

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  4. If they start doing that in Vermont, I’ll know the place has gone to the dogs flatlanders.

    Montrealers bundle their kids up and haul them around the city on sleds, tossing them over banks occasionally to toughen them up. No kidding! My Icelandic neighbors say that babies are regularly bundled and then set outside on porches in the winter – the cold is believed to be good for them, and I agree, though it’s a little easier to bear when you are moving your own limbs! We spent so much time outside when I was a kid; it didn’t hurt me any. This idea of being afraid of the winter seems crazy to me; I guess global warming is made to order, eh?

    Love the handprint photo, Dave!

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  5. qrr – The fearmongers are at work here.
    Yeah. Notice how they always come from Canada, too, these bad air masses? They’re just like terrorists, infiltrating across our borders.

    Rebecca – Well, there goes my image of the rugged Mountaineers! Interesting about the calendar situation. I wonder if it’s the same her in PA? I should ask a teacher.

    Sorry to hear about your frozen pipes. I had a bit of a scare this morning when nothing came out of the tap in the bathroom, but I propped the door of the vanity open and it thawed within five minutes. I think the fact that they’re PVC rather than copper pipes might help them thaw out quicker – but it’s a good thing I don’t have to take a blowtorch to them!

    marja-leena – I’ve started noticing increased sensitivity to cold myself, at the youthful age of 40. But the other thing is, the cold snaps don’t last as long as they used to. If it stays down cold for more than four days, one gets used to it, but anymore the temperature fluctuates so much that one doesn’t get a chance.

    beth – The truth though is probably that people who grow up in equatorial regions are the toughest – that’s where the most diseases are. You either develop a strong immune system or you die as a kid.

    That doesn’t mean that the cold might not have salubrious effects as well, though. Who am I to argue with the Icelanders? (I wouldn’t. They’d kick my ass.)

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  6. I love that your parents sleep with their windows open in the coldest temps. We do too (thanks for your comment about that on our blog). When I was growing up in NJ in the 50s and 60s, I remember walking to school through snow and frigid temps. Girls were not permitted to wear pants to school then, and I didn’t always have the most appropriate attire for warmth. I spent the first hour in school trying to thaw my fingers and toes. It had to be a full-blown blizzard to close the school down. I think we all need to be a little tougher, spend more time outdoors, and fall back in love with every season. The cold is beautiful, if you’re ready.

    Love your pics, especially that top one. Wow.

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  7. I agree that all this cold is wasted with no snow – what’s the sense?

    I love to sleep in a cold room with the covers drawn tight – don’t love it in the morning though as it makes it even harder to get up and go to work.

    I saw the most ridiculous woman at work today – wearing a waist-length fur coat coupled with the shortest of skirts – hello! it’s like ten degrees out! Why not save the innocent woodland creature and wear pants!

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  8. There’s something cool about adults that still do “a bit of sledding”!

    My favorite winter thing during college was to go to a stand of trees that was poorly drained and iceskate around them, weaving in and out, cutting cattails in half with the steel blades.

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  9. I blame the editorializing of the weather. Anything but 75-85 and sunny is weather to be warned about and apologized for. I pine for the days of meteorologists getting exicited about changes, storms, cold, extremes. “Take a coat” or “Take an umbrella” was advised, but without the additional – “What a horrible day, only 60, and with rain!” Sheesh.

    I felt like my eyeballs were going to freeze yesterday morning, but otherwise, I enjoyed my mile of walking out in the icy wind.

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  10. robin andrea – Yeah, I always wondered how the hell girls could stand to wear dresses in cold weather. I guess I figured that was just one of the many & mysterious ways in which they differed from boys. :) For my part, my legs — especially my knees — are among the most cold-sensitive parts of my body. The last few days I’ve taken to wearing two pairs of long johns, one over the other.

    Agreed about the need to make people fall in love again with each season, but I’m not sure how to do that. More nature- and place-blogging might be one small but significant part of the puzzle.

    Laura – That’s one problem I don’t have – getting out of bed in the morning. I’m such a coffee addict, I usually can’t wait to get up!

    I have a theory that the sexiness of fur coats depends upon deeply ingrained bestial/shamanic impulses, but I’ll save that for another time.

    Evan – I shudder to think that anything I do might be cool, but yeah, I do still go sledding and I don’t understand why that’s seen as a kid’s thing, when adults can go skiing and skating. I will say that I can no longer sled lying down without my back complaining, so I sit on the back and steer with my feet. I even use an insulated cushion that straps to my belt. So maybe it’s just that sledding doesn’t look pretty when people my age do it.

    Zhoen – Maybe you should wear goggles? I have glasses, so I don’t have to worry about my eyeballs freezing, just going blind when the glasses stem up and freeze. That’s why I don’t go cross-country skiing too often.

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  11. I heard on the radio last week that the average person spends something like 10 minutes per day outdoors. That seems insane to me. Although in the last few days I’ve hardly spent much more than that, mainly given my work schedule. Also it has been too cold to go out without major preparation. Monday I walked up to town to get coffee and though I was covered from head to toe in a down-filled coat and wool scarf and hat, I thought my nose would freeze off. Very windy. Still, it was good to get outside!

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  12. Only 10 minutes? Goddamn.

    The wind can be daunting below ten degrees F – it probably helps to have a woodlot to retreat into. I find myself taking longer walks than normal in this kind of weather, though, in part because the air is easier to breathe, and in part because snow is such a rarity these days, i feel an urge to take in as much of the snowy landscape as I can.

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  13. When I was a kid, I used to walk to school up hill in the snow both ways…

    Actually, I have in fact been riding my scooter in the recent cold weather. My face gets pretty frozen cause I have a 3/4 helmet that is open to the air, whereas a full helmet that closes around the neck would completely block the wind and keep my face much warmer.

    As usual though, my rationale for not getting the full helmet is related to my favorite topic. Scootering home in the cold makes the beer taste so much better at the end.

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  14. I think most normal people would go for a mug of mulled cider, tea or cocoa. But of course some of the Society for Creative Anachronism types, who like to drink gruited ale out of drinking horns, heat it up in cold weather as they did back in Mid Evil Tymes. The most authentic way to do that, I’m told, is to insert a red-hot poker for a few seconds. (You just want to warm it, not boil off the alcohol!)

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