Temperate

 

Right now, at around 1 p.m., it is four degrees below zero outside. Okay, so that's centigrade, but I still haven't graduated (back) to Fahrenheit. These things take time. My dashboard widget tells me that it's 29F--I'm still living in a mental world that responds instinctively with an "ugh!" and a fanning motion of the hand around any number above 25. (In terms of temperature, that is. I'm quite fond of people over 25, as a general rule.)

This may be a problem in the not-too-distant future. But more about that later.

Today, I want to revel in the chill. I turn the heat off at night, so that I can wake up in the morning to the wonderful feeling of toasty warmth under the covers, with my nose as a gauge for just how good the rest of my body has it. I actually haven't yet put the comforter on the bed--we've had such crazy up and down temperatures all fall, it never seemed to be the right time. I do have flannel sheets, though, and my bedspread and the blanket that Fred seems to think belongs to her.

When I finally emerge from my warm cocooon, I throw on my heavy winter robe that used to belong to my mother. It's dark purple satin and velvet, and it has long sleeves and zips up the front and is a lot like wearing a velvet sleeping bag. What's not to love about that? I slip my feet into my warm fuzzy slippers and pad downstairs.

There, the cold is much more palpable, sharp against my skin and in my breath. The upstairs is carpeted and also, well, up. Below, the hardwood floor doesn't muffle the iciness or hold onto any warmth the downstairs neighbors might unintentionally share. The kitchen tiles are colder still, and Fred doesn't hunker down over her food and water bowls the way she does in warmer weather. Who needs a frozen belly?

I may or may not make coffee; some days, like today, I just heat water for hot chocolate. It's that kind of day. Sunlight floods the entire apartment through my massive window, and the sky is a pale December blue. This is my favorite kind of weather, and I wish I had somewhere to go or time to invent a fun errand. I'd bundle up in my fuzzy orange beaded scarf that I bought in Ferrara last March, or maybe the blue and green woven Argentinian one; I'd hunt down the Chilean knitted cap with ear flaps that I got as a present for myself last Christmas in Bryant Park. I'd tie its braided tassels under my chin, shrug on my shabby black parka that has seen better days (but not recently), and head outside.

The chill would slice into my lungs as soon as I set foot out the front door. I'd remember once again that I really need to buy some gloves, since the cheap ones I bought last year unraveled at the fingertips. If I had time I could knit my own gloves, but that's going to have to be a project for the future. Maybe the distant future. Meanwhile, the pockets of my coat will have to do. I finger the rip in the lining of the left pocket, and wonder idly how much change is resting on the coat's hem.

My Doc Martens would be stiff around my feet and ankles and the sole treads would firmly grip the concrete and asphalt under my feet. My woolen socks would cushion their severity a little, but I would secretly enjoy the sense of fierceness that comes from wearing shoes that are all about function. Sometimes it's nice to indulge my practical side.

The cold would make my skin draw tight across my cheeks, and I'd move more quickly to keep the circulation going. I'd watch my breath go in and out, life made visible. I'd wish that there was more evidence of yesterday's big snow, not just a light dusting on a few cars and patches of sidewalk. I'd see the dark ice nestled against the curb, and watch out for slippery areas underneath overhanging trees. It's not just another sunny day; walking in this weather means having to stay alert. That's part of what I like about it. You can never get entirely lost in your own thoughts when it's bright and cold out like today. The sun glitters on the ice and against the sky, casting the world in a special kind of luminosity. When the temperature is below freezing, you're always mindful of the cold on your skin, in your breath. Enveloped in a big, soft coat and a fuzzy scarf and hat is a lot like waking up swathed in warm flannel sheets, knowing that you're safe against the cold.

Eventually, it would be time to come back home, strip off the extra layers, and huddle under a throw on the couch while sipping yet another cup of steaming chocolate or coffee. I love the winter.