Posted tagged ‘cold weather’

The Special Cold

December 17, 2009

So we’re having our first cold snap.

Sort of.

Because it’s just going down to minus 24C tonight.    That’s hardly a record-breaking temperature there I live.

But it’s the first noticeable cold of the season.

We’ve had freezing temperatures since late October.  But minus single-digits are par for the course.

Minus teens are tolerable, just mildly annoying.

But minus 20’s are the point at which it starts to become obnoxious outside.

Starts to.

Because it can easily go down to the minus 30’s, and (somewhat rarer) it even pushes minus 40.    And I’m sorry, that’s cold by anyone’s standards, even for Nanook of the North.

And it’s a Special kind of Cold, that you have to experience first-hand to understand.

Sorry, Chicago, Seattle, or Buffalo, you just don’t get it.

But Rugby, North Dakota, North Bay, Saskatoon and St. Jovite, you probably do.

It’s that Special Cold that gets into your house, into all the nooks and crannies and chills your marrow.  Even though the thermostat says 70F, and you’re wearing a sweater

It’s that Special Cold that slams you like a brick wall the instant you leave the house.   Where you pray that your engine starts.  Where the steering wheel burns to the touch, and feels like it’s lubricated with molasses, it’s so sluggish to move.

Where you turn the heater on full-blast, but it’s not until you arrive at your destination that the car’s finally warmed to a civilized temperature.   And then (dammit) it’s time to go outside eand you’re instantly chilled all over again.

It’s that Special Cold where your cheeks and nose feel like they’re on fire.   Where your nostrils stick together, your eyes water and the tears freeze to your cheeks.   Where your beard or mustache (if you have one) ices up within seconds.

Where you get an ice-cream headache from your bare forehead, and it hurts your lungs to breathe deeply.   Where you can’t feel the surface-skin of your legs, and your toes start to get that dull ache, that will really start to hurt if you don’t get inside soon.

But the Special Cold is also beautiful, in its own way.

The air is perfectly calm and still,  as if Mother Nature herself is hunkering down.  Everything seems to grinds to a halt.

Whitish smoke rises perfectly vertically from everyone’s chimney, forming low-level clouds that drift on for miles.    The snow has that extra squeaky sound as you walk on it.    Ice crystals dance suspended in the air, reflecting whitish-yellow against an azure sky. Everything sparkles.

Sound travels farther.  Jet aircraft WHOOSH though the crackling air much louder than usual.    You can take a cup of hot water, flick it into the air, and it will turn to ice vapor before it hits the ground.   (It’s not a myth, I’ve actually done this)

And if you dress warmly enough, with enough layers, and keep moving, you can actually go out in the Special Cold and enjoy it for short periods.

Skiing, skating, ice-fishing, snow-mobiling.   We Canadians are kind of nuts, that way.

(After all, what are we supposed to do?  Stay INDOORS all winter?)

And besides, the Special Cold is short-lived.

By March, the minus 20-30’s are pretty much done.

April is mostly rain and slush.   By the end of the month, there might even be a short heat wave where you can go out in shorts.

By May, we can easily hit plus 30C….

And then, we’ll start complaining about the heat…

Never a dull moment here, in the Great White North.