Carol Jane Remsburg
Along about the middle of February we realize we've had enough of cold weather and living indoors. What makes this worse is the fact that it's only the middle of February and no amount of thick, hearty soups and hot bread or warmly glowing candles or our favorite music can push aside the fact that we are imprisoned indoors. The good movies that we watched last month no longer draw us and games of any kind are enough to make use nauseated by their mere suggestion. Like inmates in a penitentiary, we want OUT!
This winter, the winter of 2000-2001 has been one of those that won't go down in our memory books. We don't want it to. It wasn't filled with ice/snow storms that could bring a touch of excitement and danger to our lives when it really wouldn't for the most part. It was just cold. Okay, so it was colder than normal which I expected but it was just the type of winter to make you crazy with spats of a day or two that promised something it never gave—either in storm or warm weather. So what's new about that? Nothing.
When the cold weather finally arrives we aren't braced for it—we are eager for it. It's supposed to be a time of snow, red-noses, and alive with the spirit of the holidays. Gone are the sultry, soul-stealing lethargic days of summer. Autumn arrives and invigorates us with its colors and allure. We fall for it every time and then embrace the difference. Tolerant as we are once December is gone and the New Year passes, January is a token. It's the time for bad weather and battening down of the hatches. We are ready and on the alert—just in case. Then January ends.
February sneaks in like we didn't notice it. Within a few weeks we realize that we are suffering a severe case of cabin fever. It starts as nothing overt or recognizable, but it's there if you look for it. Tempers get shorter and sharp retorts become the norm. All abiding within the abode become bored with everything—all the games (electronic or board or cards), the television with satellite connection and about a gazillion channels, the computers with internet connections, our favorite books, and even our interpersonal relations have all gone sour.
It's not just the kids who are bored and tired, but the adults are too. Regular chores transform themselves into mountains of endeavor. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, bill paying, and maintenance of the house becomes too much. Sleep calls to us. We feel alternately tired and suffering a simmering illness of ill will. When we chance to look out the window—it's still barren and cold looking. It's an honest vision. Then when you sleep, you still wake up tired.
After a solid week of a raw drizzle, not cold enough to snow or sleet, but just on the edge of it so that it hurries you inside, the gloom evolves out of the skies and beyond of our psyches. Our frustration becomes tangible, no—not that word surely; it lives and walks and talks for us. We end up not even tolerating ourselves.
The sun finally came out yesterday. The sun brought company—a howling, keening, frighteningly cold scary wind with gusts of 50 mph with a steady gale of over 25 mph. Mother Nature made it unpleasant to be out of doors and worrisome if you were indoors as you hoped the trees would remain rooted and your roof shingles immune to the blasts.
What was left to do? I washed mountains of laundry that dried indoors sending my electric bill into the stratosphere. I burned candles and cooked filling foods. My mechanical movements didn't fool me though, I wanted out. I wanted a taste of that untamed, cold freshness that February will give up only if you twist its arm hard enough.
Then I gave up and found a warm spot with my book and opted out of the whole thing. While the book didn't keep me absorbed it did its job well enough to get by for the night.
Sunday, today, arrived. It wasn't rainy, windy, or dark—but it was cold. The sun was out but not giving any warmth. I hung and clipped the laundry on the line and ran back indoors. What happened? Even with that wind a steady breeze well down from yesterday's screaming gales everything froze. However it gave me a few minutes of outside.
My little one, my daughter aged ten, slipped outside—bundled up as well as she could. She didn't think I'd notice her there. I did but my treat came later when she couldn't take the cold any more and rushed inside crying over how her ears hurt from the cold.
Have you ever embraced someone, especially a child, who has been outside for more than five minutes in the cold and bluster? If you haven't you should. It matters not over all the Ivory or Dove soaps or even all the fancy shampoos and conditioners or even the most costly of perfumes—when you snuggle a child to warm them, one who is cold from outdoors you embrace a rare freshness. It's as elusive and fleeting as finding a wild strawberry. You don't ask questions, you simply savor it and hope you can keep the moment forever in your memory.
It's when all seems hard and tiring and our bodies are weary that we gratefully accept these small gifts. Will spring ever come? Yes it will, but until it does I'll hold my child and warm her rosy cheeks with my hands while I bury my nose in her hair. Cuddling is best this way.