Monday, February 10, 2014

She's Got Cabin Fever

Sometimes the mere act of admitting that something is horrible helps to ease the pain of the horribleness if only just a little bit. I've been having a number of conversations with locals, Chicago natives, about the severity of this particular winter, my first winter in the Windy City. Everyone agrees, this is worst than most, but nothing they haven't experienced before.

A few things happen to your perception when you experience sub-zero temperatures on a regular basis. First of all, you gain perspective. I've spoken of this before. The difference between minus twenty and twenty degrees fahrenheit is a whopping forty degrees. Your body can tell. We went from minus fifteen on a Monday night to twenty-five on a Friday, and I sweat all day long. Everywhere I went, I felt like a swamp walking around. I walked from train station to destination with no hat or scarf and breathed easy. I kept my hair up off of my neck while working to avoid oceans of sweat. Twenty-five degrees is a walk in the park after the bitter cold of an early February midnight in Chicago. I welcome them to become more frequent.

Please note that this is not the wind-chill. This is the current actual temperature, and we are looking forward to dropping another nine degrees before the sun comes up. 
Secondly, you begin to value your heater, your blankets, your layers, and your GLOVES above all else. I can't tell you how grateful I am to have a heater that works, hot water that runs, long underwear that warms, and gloves that I haven't lost yet. I always get into a bit of a panic when I'm trying to leave and haven't found my gloves. You, nor I, can do a damn thing without something to warm our hands. Never think, "Oh, I'll just keep my hands in my pockets," because you won't. You won't. I would love to be able to wear my converse right now, but the snow banks are too high, and they won't warm my toes to save my life. I'm looking forward to sporting them again someday. I really am.

Finally, you get a bit of the "fever." How do you know you have it? Let's see. I find myself laughing hysterically as I fling my body across my car to shovel yet another foot of snow from the windshield. The banks of snow kicked back by the moving cars become ice enclosed spaces for the parked cars. I have learned to expertly parallel park by flinging my car blindly over an ice dune into a small pocket left behind by the car previously inhabiting that space. My wheels get a little whiny at times, but with a little love, and a lot of insane laughing/fogging up my windshield so that it also freezes on the inside, my car nestles comfortably into its new space.

A "dibs" chair. If you take the time to shovel your parking space, you get to call "dibs" by using a chair, a table, a manger, or really anything that lets the rest of the block know: DIBS. 
When I take Linus out for walks, he climbs the giant snow banks from the constant shoveling to do his business, and I climb in after him, the snow pouring over the tops of my snow boots, to dispose of it. Once he can tell that I've had enough, and I do believe he can tell, we both run wildly back to the front door.

Linus rushes out for a quick bathroom break after about twelve hours of new snow. 
I can't imagine how crazy one has to be to go running on days when the air not only hurts my face but my throat and my lungs. Shallow breaths help keep the feeling that a million knives are stabbing my throat and lungs to a minimum.

I have had my moment of break down...I think. I found myself furiously stirring chocolate pudding to satiate my chocolate hunger on a day when I couldn't bring myself to leave the house. Linus stood and stared at me as I stirred and babbled to myself about the necessity of meeting myself head-on in my darkest moments instead of running away from it all. He was just hoping he would get some chocolate. Instead, I gave him a little peanut butter just for sticking around while I mumbled.

A lovely walk in the snow turned sour because the wind would not stop blowing the snow into my eyes. Linus hated it too. 
The good news is I noticed yesterday that the official time of sunset was 5:15 when two weeks ago it had been around 5:00. That means we are gaining about a minute of sunlight a day, which means that eventually, the sun will be much closer to this part of the country, which means that the snow will HAVE to melt at some point. The snow will have to melt, and the temperature will have to stop settling on sub-zero and get a little closer to above freezing. I'll take 35. Heck, I'll take 33. I'd even settle for 30.

The world keeps on turning. The fire of life keeps burning. It's good to know that we didn't start it, though. It's been burning since the world's been turning, Billy Joel. The snow will go just as surely as it came, and the leaves will return to the trees. A life without hope is no life at all. I'm grateful I can still find it even after sliding wildly down an ice bank whilst trying to get back into my car after a long night at work. I'm even more grateful that I can laugh about it.

In two weeks, I'll begin my inside seed starters for the spring. IN TWO WEEKS.


Julie Best said...

You can run in that weather!! Well above 10, that's my mark. It is delightful! Just wear layers that you can remove and tie around yourself, so you don't get sweaty. You will look like a crazy rag monster, but it's fun!!! Also, you will appreciate springtime like never before, especially the day all the snow is melted and little daffodils poke their heads up to welcome in the new season. It is glorious.

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Martha Lois said...

So glad you wrote this blog about your first winter in Chicago when it was still SO cold! Love