Tuesday, 12 January 2010


It's cold. It's so cold I have on six socks (three complete pairs evenly divided between my two feet) and hiking shoes and my toes feel frozen. It's so cold, my hands have been a variation on a shade of purple for days now. It's so cold, I wore 3 sweaters and a down jacket outside and still shivered. It's so cold, the snow hasn't melted yet -- which is saying a lot for both southern England and for Washington, DC.

Cold is an unpleasant sensation for me at its best. It's quite frequently a painful sensation. It makes my joints ache. Part of my dislike for the cold has to do with psyching myself out about it. The rest has to do with the number of clothing items I have to wear to feel comfortable and the discomfort or pain.

I'm trying to toughen up mentally. I'm not sure how it happened that I ended up this way: always cold, afraid of the cold, pained by the cold. When I was 10, I remember running around on cold mornings (cold for California, but still in the 30s and 40s) with a t-shirt on, refusing to put on a sweatshirt. I was cold, but I didn't care. There'd be goosebumps on my arms but I didn't care. I didn't feel cold. I didn't shiver. It didn't hurt. I didn't worry about warming up. For whatever reason, it sort of became the thing I was known for and one day, a family friend dared me to wear a bathing suit in the snow when we went up to the mountains. As my memory has it, I did. I wore a bathing suit and ran around in the cold air, shoes on my feet, those shoes getting wet with snow. Was I an early practicer of mind over matter or was I just being stubborn? I don't know that answer, but I do know those days are no longer. I can psych myself up to go out for a bit, it's easier when I can identify heated places to stop in along the way (as was the case with a recent trip to DC -- I had a cafe tour of some parts of the city). I can tell myself I'm not going to let it get to me, or put all my layers on twenty minutes before I go out and do jumping jacks. I can tell myself I'll warm up if I keep walking. None of those things keep the cold from being an uncomfortable experience for me.

Memorable times of being cold? In the kitchen at Emily's house which for all I can tell is the exact same thing as being outside. My hands a solid purple color, aching and stiff as I chopped veggies for our soup.

Going up to Cradle Mountain the day I arrived in Tasmania. The tour guide drove us to a clothing store and say stock up, it's gonna be cold. No lie. I bought gloves nad a hat and big green wool socks, which remain my favorite cold weather socks today. We got up to the mountain and it was freezing. It snowed. We were meant to go take a walk around the lake for a more complete view of the mountain and lake and I hurt so bad, it took me a good 45 minutes to thaw out.

I remember football games in the fall. The temperature might not have been that low, but there was fog and wet cold is its own kind of bone penetrating cold.

A night spent mostly awake in a tent for tiny people or people with very short legs, in some random park on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, squeezed in there next to my roommate, curled into a ball, blanket over my head, shivering. No sleep. Nothing but giggles the next day.

Standing on a beach, any beach, sun setting, moisture in the air, an onshore wind blowing, toes and fingers, feet and hands, freezing. So cold it hurt to brush the sand off.

The office of my first job. I'd dress for winter even on the 100 plus degree summer days. It was an ice box.

Vermont. In Feburrrrrary.

The one and only time I tried skiing. Why on earth do people want to be cold?

A beautiful room I rented in a house from the 1920s. Poorly insulated and drafty. It was difficult to get out of bed in the mornings and put my feet onto the cold wood floor, then go into the cool stone-floored bathroom. The sound of the plastic shrink wrapped over the windows moving, crinkling, out as the air blew in and out.

Car windows down, heat on full blast, driving through the night, faint smell of burning rubber coming from the footwell.

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