Three degrees Fahrenheit. 13 inches of ice on Canada Lake. Wind chill minus 10.
We label and measure each aspect of the season, our only sense of understanding. Or is it an illusion of control?
Wind moves through layers of clothing. As Chuy & I walk past pines, the wind is louder, buffeting the full branches laden with inches of powdery snow.
The frozen crystals splinter down upon us, peppering the face like tiny ice bird-shot, blasted from Winter’s shotgun.
We scoff at the readings on the thermometer. We boast of colder winters survived. We revel in the tales of hours and whole days spent suspended above lakes and ponds on a foot-thick floor of frozen water. We retell the tales of the biggest catches, the deepest snows, the thickest ice.
We think ourselves brave and bold as we dress in layer after layer, bundle ourselves like fine art prepared for shipping. Some of the smarter ones will stay inside on a bitter day.
Up in Alaska, people live above the Arctic Circle. Never thaws. Permafrost they call it. It’s “winter” year round. We marvel at their lives, we wonder about their sanity. We are awe-struck by native people, having lived and fished and died here for thousands of years. Why? When humans crossed the Bering Sea land bridge, why did they stop here? Just another thousand miles and they could be living in seaside Seattle. Two thousand, and they’d be in Baja California. What enraptures us to live with the snow?
Out in the universe, the cosmos laughs. 3 degrees? You call that cold? Out here where there’s no atmosphere, there’s NO heat. NONE. Not zero or below zero, but what we humans have labeled “absolute zero”. Not a single calorie of heat energy. Relative to our thermometers, that would be about 450 degrees below zero Fahrenheit!
There’s something about being out there in the cold, particularly when I’m alone, that makes me feel that much more a part of the universe. Most of it is cold. Planets near stars are warm. Some of them very hot, of course. Hundreds of degrees. the sun itself, not the hottest star either, has surface temperatures measured in the millions of degrees.
But mostly, the cosmos is a big, empty, heatless space.
So, our three degrees today, all 3 of them, are way ahead of the universe’s curve. It’s almost like a heat wave. Great to have a warm winter.
Next time you’re out there, shoveling a path to your door, skiing down a hill, boring a hole in the ice, if you think it’s cold…
I feel warmer already.
Be at peace,