Monday, January 16, 2012


It was -27 degree's celcius this morning when I walked to school. There was frozen moisture in the air, not quite snow, smaller than snow, but falling in a sort of frozen fog. And it was the kind of cold that hurts your forehead, and makes you ball your hands into fists inside your mittens, tucking your thumbs in to keep them warm. And you wear a toque, pulled down to your eyes, and your hood up, and a scarf around your neck and pulled up to cover your mouth and nose. You have to be especially careful with your scarf, to make sure the triangle of skin exposed by your coat collar is covered, because that is one of the commonest places to get frostbite.

And so layered with wool long-johns under your jeans and wool socks and moccasins and sweaters under your winter coat the cold is beatable.

But when you breathe out for a few minutes, covered with your scarf, your breath freezes on the outside of the scarf, and drifts up the sides of your face and freezes the tiny bit of hair there, and you can't wear mascara because your breath also drifts all the way up to your eyelashes and freezes there too. And then when you start to thaw out on the train the water mixes with the makeup and runs.
And finally when you do get inside a building, or train, or bus, and pull the scarf off your face, you need a Kleenex to wipe away all the moisture on your face and it's kind of gross.

The cold makes everything red and swollen and chapped-looking, turns people's faces ugly. You keep your eyes to the ground, straining to differentiate between snow and ice while walking so as not to slip. It's all white, of course, but the ice often has some brown mixed in, is a little smoother and slicker-looking, not as many shadows. But there are hardly any shadows at all anyways, not when the sky is heavy and uniform with grey snow clouds. So it's a guessing game.

And it's kind of exhilarating to come in from the cold to a warm place, and feel numb and dizzy and slightly sick from the fast temperature change. And to feel your face start to thaw, and your thighs tingle, and you wiggle your toes until you can feel them in your boots again and they aren't just wooden lumps. And sitting in class, or at home, I pretend that my red cheeks and flattened hat-head-hair and woollen sweater are all there because I am living in Sweden, or Finland, or the North Pole. There is a kind of mystery and magic that comes from this very cold; trolls and dark pine forests and wolves and spirits. Like a Jann Brett book, the kind we got every Christmas when we were kids. That kind of magic. Not Christmas magic, but more elemental.

Winter is finally here I think.

1 comment:

  1. I used to pretend that I was some kind of ice monster stomping around North Dakota. I'd be wearing a balaclava or a scarf and the moisture would drift up to my eyelashes and eyebrows and freeze solid, giving me the look of Old Man Winter or the Abominable Snowman. Trouble was, the ice would get thick enough that my eyelids would start sticking shut, and I'd have to either run inside a vestibule or put my gloves up over my face until they thawed. And then I'd get into class and have to wipe my face off, just as you described. And feel my skin tingle as it warmed, just as you described. And wait for my toes to stop being wooden lumps, just as you described.

    The other cool thing was when the snow began to melt (in, I dunno, May?) and the ground was covered in a two-inch-deep layer of slushy crust, which I would stomp on. It would explode and leave a footprint many times larger than my own, and I could pretend I was some kind of nuclear daikaiju blasting my way through Tokyo.