At the cabin two weeks ago, the temperatures were unseasonably warm—hovering around 50. Warm enough that I could leave the front door partially open, so I could hear the winds and the calls of the jays, warm enough that when I built a fire later that night, the cabin got so hot I had to open the door to let in cool air. I can’t say I minded the warm weather; it made everything so much easier.
Last week, however, winter returned. The high Wednesday was 20, but with a strong wind it felt more like in the teens. By the time I went to bed, the temperature was flirting with 4 or 5 degrees. Everything in the cabin was chilled: the couch, the floor, dishes, books, the bed, clothes; the frigid air penetrated the refrigerator, freezing all the vegetables. My cup of tea turned cold within a few minutes. Cold air poured in from below, through the electrical outlets, the windows, around the chimney, every seam in the wall.
And yet I treasure this weather. In this increasingly warm climate, such days are becoming rare. A friend in Wisconsin tells me that this month they’ve gotten rain instead of snow. In the Northeast, sales of winter clothes are sinking as nobody needs parkas and gloves. I feel fortunate that here in Colorado we still have enough cold days to get snow, that Meeker Park is blanketed in white, even if it means I have to shovel out driveways.
When I was 12, my father took some of the family to our northern Wisconsin cabin in winter, where the daytime temperatures were 20 below zero. Because the cabin has no central heat or plumbing, we stayed warm by huddling close to the fireplace. Going to the outhouse in the morning is an experience I’ll never forget. You don’t know cold until your bottom is exposed at below zero temperatures. Yet we had fun—skied, walked to the inlet to collect water for drinking, ice skated on the frozen black lake. I remember that time fondly and vividly.
Cold days keep you alive, awaken all your senses. When I went for a walk around Meeker Park last week, I was bundled up as much as I could, wearing thick and heavy boots, so I moved slowly and deliberately through the deep snow, which thankfully was light and airy, rising up into small whirlwinds. On days like this, there’s no languishing, no sitting by the pond and daydreaming; I keep moving to keep the blood running.
When I stopped amid the shelter of a small grove of ponderosa pines, I found a bit of sun and respite from the wind. With only seven hours of daylight now, that warmth and light felt precious.