Thursday, November 12, 2009

Five-Minute Blog: Cold

I am just like Sam McGee from Tennessee, who could never get warm enough in Robert Service's poem.

When I was little, we lived in a house warmed by wood stove, so the back rooms where we slept were never as warm as the front ones. My father would take our heavy quilts or the Pendleton blanket, hold them over the stove until they were warm, fold the heat inside them, and walk down the frozen tundra of our hallway to unfold them on his cold daughters. That burst of warmth (literal and figurative) would just make us boneless with peace. And then he'd sit there at the edge of the bed and recite poetry in the dark until we were all the way asleep. It's why I know who Sam McGee is now. We are very lucky.

Perhaps because I am so spoiled, I can't stand being cold. It makes me whiny and irritable. I can't think of anything else when I'm cold. I feel like the wind is blowing just to offend me. I feel like everything is unfair in the deep way that things are unfair when one is seven years old. At least, that's how I felt in at home in Oklahoma when I was cold, or especially, on the few cold days we had in Mississippi when I was in graduate school. In Italy, I was mad with the cold, and watched the tiny Italian women go by on their way to market wearing short skirts and big scarves and thought they must be inhuman because they were tough enough to wear nothing between themselves and the cold but microfiber tights. I went to the market in a huge brown coat, and froze, and felt like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I was born in what they call a "blizzard" in Oklahoma. Here in upstate New York, they would probably call it "fifteen minutes of light snow." But it stopped everyone in Oklahoma in their tracks at the time. I always think it is the reason I love snow. Snow is not the same as cold. I can stand cold when there is snow. It's the dead leaves, wind blowing, cold without reason that makes me irate and obnoxious.

But here, for some reason, I can stand the cold. This morning, we had frost, and the wind coming off the Black River Bay was so cold my fingernails hurt. But I took Tula walking downtown anyway, and stood around in the cold while she smelled of everything and tried to eat poison berries. I was cold. I wished she'd hurry. But I wasn't mad about it.

Cold here seems natural. I know cold is natural everywhere. Weather is itself, and we put the judgement on it. Maybe it's just because I expect to be cold here that I don't mind it as much. In Oklahoma and Mississippi, I felt like I ought to be warm, because both of those states do warm REALLY well, and for most of the year, too. In Italy, I was mad when it was cold because my house was so drafty and full of cracks that let it in, and the marble tiles were like ice.

I say this now, of course, when it's normal cold. I may be Sam McGee again when it's 20 below. Except I think there will be snow then, and it covers all ills for me. (And here, it may also cover my car for me...I find that very exciting!)

We'll see. It just feels easy to have a good attitude up here. I don't know why. I even love the dead leaves.

And now my five minutes are up, and I must work on my novel then get ready for school.

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