Monday, January 14, 2008

It Doesn't Have To Be Cold To Be Cold

It was 37F this morning, and I just about froze solid waiting for the streetcar. Although I've lost track of the time I've spent in subzero temperatures, shivering through days and nights, feeling cold is feeling cold. I don't care if it's 50F; if I'm in a t-shirt and it's 50F and it's raining, I'll go hypothermic in a few hours like anyone.

The sensation of deep cold is that of a vast absence, the Earth's blanket stripped off, the void of space reaching down to sear and to cripple. Cold is not malicious, but these are its effects on the human frame.

Last winter on Alaska's north shore the cold almost crippled my hands; after a day of hauling my sled, wearing an experimental insuation system (photo above; it didn't work so well in this case), my hands were no better than claws, and I was barely able to set up my tent and crawl inside to set up the stove and rewarm.

I'd broken the first rule of staying warm, which is to stay warm; if you feel a little cold, do something about it. Your body isn't lying to you, it's pleading with you. Listen to it. Stave off cold space for a little longer. Insulate yourself. Headbanging through the cold will only work for a little while. After all, you're resisting the enormity of space, which, if left unattended, will draw every calorie of heat from your body.


Charles Sullivan said...

I always feel colder in the autumn when the high temperature first dips to around 50 degrees F.

Yet when the high temperature first rises to around 50 degrees F in the spring, I feel warmer than I felt in the autumn.

Anonymous said...

next time just imagine your solar plexus churning like a sunspot. I have a hard time with temperatures dipping below 70F. What can I say, I'm one of those people of the sun.

Charles Sullivan said...

I like those it was so called yarns:

It was so cold that that when you exhaled it turned into ice crystals, and if you smacked those crystals they'd shatter like glass.

It was so cold that the flames in the cabin wood stove froze solid.

It was so cold that you could shape smoke into balls just like snowballs.