Cold

Daniel tells me it’s cold up north. The temperature dipped below zero; then it got really cold.

I don’t miss the cold.

Here in the Southwest it’s been chilly. I wore gloves. I left my moped at home and drove my truck to school for a few days. I put on a jacket. But it wasn’t really cold. A delicate dusting of snow fell one day and everyone was delighted. It wasn’t enough to shovel; it looked like campus had been decorated for a movie shoot.

My former sister-in-law and her husband came to visit. Since she was a sister-in-law by marriage— and I’m not married anymore— she has decided that she’s my sister, which is just fine with me. Her son is working on the North Slope in Alaska. She said he had heaters in his boots.

“In his boots?” I asked, thinking perhaps I had misheard.

“Yup, in his boots. He has a control panel on his belt and he can turn the heat from one to three. One is good for 20 below. Two is good to 40 below. Three will only stay on for five minutes at a time, otherwise you might start your socks on fire.”

I thought about that for a minute. That is cold.

Apparently there is a whole industry I didn’t know about. There are electric heaters in boots and jackets and gloves.

“You can get electric underwear!” My former brother-in-law exclaimed. (He’s prone to exaggeration, and I thought he might be making that up, but I checked it out and he’s right.)

I don’t miss the cold. I don’t even want to think about combustible socks or electric underwear. I don’t think that cold builds character, or courage, or community. I like warm temperatures. I went hiking in shirt sleeves with my newest sister. The sun was shining in the mountains. A little snow remained, but the air was warm and the sun was hot. It was nice, in January, to feel a pleasant breeze on my face.

But I remember earlier this month, while home for the holidays, skiing in the forest frosted with heavy snow, watching ice crystals blow off the trees, catch the late afternoon light, and make a golden haze that drifted to the blue-white ground. Here, at the end of January, I don’t quite believe it’s winter and I have to confess a little unease.

Perhaps it’s because I cannot appreciate even the most beautiful sight if it remains static. Only in change do I seem able to comprehend the absolute magic of the moment. Where I live now, the sunsets are amazing and the desert has a magic and mystery all its own. But this landscape does not utterly transform itself every few months as it does in the Midwest. Maybe I am spoiled.

I don’t miss the cold, but I might miss all that comes with the cold. The glorious autumns that herald winter’s coming, the riotous mess of spring, the mad impatient green of summer, and the almost holy stillness of a snow-covered day.

I was raised in the cold and, perhaps, I do miss it, just a little.

At five o’clock this evening Milo and I went for our sunset walk. I put on a sweater and grabbed my jacket. I tied the sweater around my waist one block down the road and ditched my jacket two blocks later. The sky turned pink as I walked in a t-shirt. I reminded myself it was January.

And I thought: I really don’t miss the cold.

Till next time,

—Carrie

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