The weather across the Midwest has been very cold lately, much colder than normal and it has people grumbling. I’ve heard threatening comments: “The first person I hear complaining about the heat this summer, is going to get it!” I don’t know what “it” is that they’re going to get, but I am reasonably sure “it” isn’t good. I like the cold weather.
A couple nights ago, around 11:40 p.m., it was -29° outside when I decided I was going to take my two-mile, daily walk. Not outside of course, I’m not crazy. I would walk on the treadmill in the unheated three seasons room. Okay, maybe I am crazy.
I put on my long sleeve flannel shirt, a stocking hat and a pair of gloves. After setting the speed to four mph, I started walking. The brisk, cold air helps to clear my mind; allowing me to reflect on things that are important.
Since this room is not heated, it sometimes builds frost on the inside of the thermal-pane windows. That’s been the case during these frigid days. While I was walking, I noticed the frost and the patterns created. It mesmerized me, drawing me into deep contemplation.
As a whole, the frost looked like a bouquet or floral arrangement of sorts. The more I looked at the frost pattern, I was finding things like flowers, tall reeds, cattails, a palm tree, mountains, birds, feathers, faces, a ghost, a crab, a cross and more. It was like gazing at the clouds on a summer day and seeing images within them. I saw both reality and illusions.
It was a beautiful walk, albeit a little cold, I really enjoyed it. I’m telling you my friends, there is magic in these days of bitterly cold temperatures. Find and appreciate the beauty before it goes away.
By 6:20 the next morning, the temperature had dropped to -35°. I needed to go outside for more firewood and to see if any of my cars would start. I put on a warm, hooded coat and a stocking cap as well. I grabbed my gloves, then my dog June, and I went outside.
When I opened the door and stepped outside, the frigid air hit me in the face. More so than cold, I found it refreshing; crisp with a crackling snap - like the first bite from an apple fresh off the tree is Washington state! With each breath the air chilled my lungs and the opening of my nostrils felt like they froze. I wasn’t going to be outside long without more protective clothing, so I got right to my tasks.
The snow was past crunching under my feet as I walked, it actually squeaked in a way I had never heard before, but this was the coldest air I had ever been in. I put the key in the ignition of my truck and turned it. Wow! The truck started right up. Next, I started the van and the car. They all sat idling in the frozen driveway, squawking, moaning, growling and making all sorts of new noises. Apparently, cars like to complain about the weather as well. I loved it all. The sounds, the feel; it all made me feel very alive. Somehow, the thrill of that morning made we want to experience yet colder conditions
I had often heard people tell stories of the temperatures on the north shore dropping down to -40°. It seemed the people weren’t complaining, but almost bragging about the cold. Their stories intrigued me and were part of the attraction that led me to eventually move here. I do love this cold weather season, partially because I have experienced the contrast.
In late August of last year, I was in Mesquite, Nevada. Melissa called to give me a heads up. “The high in Mesquite, today is expected to be 116° at 3:00 p.m., so if you can do your business and get out of town before then, that would be best.” She knows I am not a big fan of the hot weather, and I appreciated her tip.
In Mesquite, I helped a man named Dewey, set up his new Scamp. It was hot! 113°. That’s hotter than any temperature I have ever experienced. It was so hot, I would sweat just standing still in the shade. I took slow breaths as the air felt heavy in my lungs. When I was done helping Dewey, I needed to stop by the grocery store to get a few things for the trip home.
It was all my air conditioner could do to cool break the extreme heat in the cab of the truck on the short drive to Smith’s Grocery. I parked and stepped out of my truck. The scorching heat rising from the black asphalt parking lot nearly took my breath away, yet all the other people were walking about like the heat was no big deal.
On my way inside, I caught up with a lady and asked her, “Excuse me, ma’am. Is this weather hot?” “Not really,” She replied, “Why?” I explained, “I’m from northern Minnesota, and it seems really, really hot to me.” She giggled a bit, “It’s not too bad.” Somehow her easy composure made we want to experience even warmer conditions.
I’ve heard stories about Death Valley, Arizona; they say 125° is not uncommon there. It seemed the people weren’t complaining, but almost bragging about the heat! Their stories intrigued me. I’ve never been any place that hot. I had a desire to go to Death Valley, to experience such heat; I even started monitoring their forecast to see if I could catch such a hot day. Now granted, since I’m not a huge fan of the heat, I would probably just drive there, step out of the truck, maybe walk fifty feet or so, then get back in the airconditioned truck and say, “There. I now know what 125° feels like.”
I started thinking about what Dewey, told me back in Mesquite, when I was trying to show him how to light his water heater: “We don’t use water heaters here in the summer.” “Why not?” I asked, Dewey explained, “The cold water coming from the city water works has been sitting in big tanks out in the sun. It’s already hot.” I’d never considered that. In contrast, our northern climate sometimes requires us to thaw water pipes in the winter. The differences are vast and interesting.
As much as I enjoy the season of extreme cold in Minnesota, and the thrill I felt just to experience such extreme heat as that day in Nevada, I must admit, spring is always welcome and fall? Fall is just the best!
I consider myself blessed, that in the past five months, I have been able to feel both the hottest and coldest temperatures I’ve ever experienced. The hottest being 116° and the coldest -35°. That’s a 151° spread in temperatures. While that may seem like a big difference, if you divide that number by 2, it would seem I’m living life at an average temperature of 75.5° and that’s pretty nice by anyone’s standards.
Tom can be reached for comment at Facebook.com/tompalen.98