What They Don’t Mention About the Cold

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, photoshops kangaroos in the snow during the bomb cyclone.Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any colder, the weather channel challenges you with The Bomb Cyclone. A new term for winter hurricane, it means more cold. In your head you see scenes from the movie The Day After Tomorrow, where a super-storm plunges the planet into a new Ice Age.

There are things no one mentions about the freezing cold. How it makes you want to just hole up at home. How you crank up the heat to avoid facing frozen pipes. How you can hardly get out of bed with forecasts promising arctic blasts, massive polar vortexes, blizzards and blinding snow, damaging winds, temperatures hovering around zero, and wicked wind chill factors. Bone-chilling cold. You begin to understand the appeal of hibernation.

But sooner or later you have to brave the elements, despite the severe winter storm warnings. You dread having to dig the car out of snowdrifts, and scrape thick ice from its windows. Its engine needs warming up but you don’t dare sit in the car while it runs, for fear of carbon monoxide poisoning, so while the car idles in place, you shovel a path out the driveway to the road. And then pray as you drive over icy roads through blowing snow.

You dress in layers. Long underwear. Corduroy pants. High, SmartWool socks and waterproof shearling-lined boots with chunky treads. Hats, scarves, gloves. You throw on your warmest hoodie and downiest winter jacket with windbreaker shell and polyester-fleece lining. You’re exhausted from the effort of wrapping up when you notice your dog giving you The Signal. It needs Out. Remembering how the poor dog shivers, and limps on alternating legs in the snow, you dress it up as well. And you don’t dare let it go out alone because all the small rodents have frozen, leaving hungry coyotes out hunting.

It feels like every part of your body is shriveling in the cold. Your joints and muscles ache. Lips crack. Cheeks burn. Fingers and toes go numb. Your nose runs. It turns red. Breathing in the coldest air, the hairs in your nostrils stand on end. Your skin dries out. Hands and feet feel itchy, rough and flaky. If exposed to the bitter cold long enough, frostbite sets in. Or chilblains. And in the dark frigid winter something in your heart turns hard and cold, as well. Depression. Irritability. You become a hermit. You become a glacier.

Things could be worse, you tell yourself.

Somewhere in the world, say Australia, it is summertime. And if you were there now, watching kangaroos sleeping in the sun, you know you’d be whining about the heat.


How does cold affect you? What do you do to escape the cold?


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4 thoughts on “What They Don’t Mention About the Cold

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    I thought of those “roos” and the record high temperatures in Sydney and probably where they live.

    I had a stomach virus between Christmas and New Year which meant I didn’t have to go out to buy food. I did go outside to the front porch to get firewood and loaded a pile of it on an old piece of rug near the wood stove so I only had to go out once a day when I was feeling the worst. I also drove to my son’s cabin a few times because he was in balmy San Francisco and worried about the pipes. I took another portable heater to his cabin and all was well. I finished a complicated 1000 piece jig saw puzzle and read an excellent novel. Willow is reliable in frigid weather. I let her out by herself and she’s back at the door barking in 5 minutes. Extreme cold makes me feel alone and isolated in this world, even though I have friends and sometimes a son not far away. Another sobering experience of our basic human solitude.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Sobering. Yeah. All the stuff that has to be done even when you’re sick. Especially in this cold. When you’re trying to prevent the pipes from freezing. When you’re dragging space heaters up and down stairs and in and out of cars. For your son who’s in sunny San Francisco?!? OMG you’ve set me off about sons in California, sons who say, Mom, I’m not coming home until summer ’cause I don’t want to see snow this year. Ugh. And then we have to deal with all their stuff. Gotta love those sons. But really. We’re not spring chickens anymore. And our poor frozen bones can’t be traipsing all about the ice and snow that easily these days. And how come WE’re home all by ourselves, holding down the fort, alone, when they should be telling us, Hey Mom, why don’t you come on out to California and visit me – for 2 or 3 months!
      Sorry to be ranting but you’ve hit on a sore spot. Hope to see you in the spring, Elaine. After the snow and thaws and floods.

  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    You said it, Robin! A perfect description!

    My car wouldn’t start one day this week because of the cold. I was somewhat relieved, actually, because I thought I’d been paranoid to worry about it. After all, I bought a new battery only 2 years ago. My grandson gave me advice on that one, and it worked. But now I don’t leave the car sitting for more than 24 hours without using it, even though I just want to hide in my house for the rest of the winter.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yikes, Lynne. Now you’ve got ME paranoid. Guess I’ll be more diligent about running the car even the days I’m not running around myself. Not having a working cell phone or car creeps me out. Because that means you’re really stuck. Not just taking a break or a day off, but stuck. Home. Alone, maybe. A most uncomfortable feeling for me. I also mostly just want to hide in the house for all of winter. But not if I can’t phone friends or escape in the car at any time. Wishing us a short winter. And no more dumpings of snow. And car batteries that last until we’re ready to trade in the car. Cheers!


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