Getting Cold

I can feel the cold on my skin. It’s a sensation let’s say, but neither pleasant nor unpleasant. It’s not keeping me from anything. I’d describe it as a sort of buzz, a little menthol, a little electric. I can live with it. In fact, I can live with a lot of it.

Maybe it was 2002. I pulled up to a traffic light in Cambridge. This was December and 45F, and I was on a fast bike. An older guy dressed in tights, jacket, hat, etc., looked over at me and said, “It’s a little cold for shorts and a t-shirt, isn’t it?” And I said, “Well, I find that if I get a little cold on me as early in the season as I can, then I stop feeling it at all. Maybe you’re a little over-dressed.” And he said, “Well, I think I’ve been doing this long enough to know what I’m doing.” And I shrugged and said, “Uh, ok.”

It would be hard to pinpoint the day exactly, but there comes a point in every winter when I have to decide to get cold. I chart the drop in temperatures each morning as I open the backdoor for the dog to go out. The air rushes in colder and colder as the days progress. The urge is to retreat, to close the door quickly and pour another cup of coffee.

That cup of coffee is good, and it tastes best on the couch, and if you caught that icy chill as it blew in at the door, you might grab a blanket and make yourself perfectly, fatally comfortable. Now you’re trapped. Now it’s cold every time you open the door, and you spend the next months trying to avoid going out, trying to stay warm at all times, praying for the spring to come.

By now, the first weeks of the New Year, I can handle a lot of cold. Most days as the mercury passes 30F I just need a sweatshirt unless I’m standing around. All of this will get put to the test as ski season offers up it’s chilliest mornings, the temperature in the teens or lower, the wind whipping across the slope’s face. I’m resistant to the cold, not impervious.

The thing is, in New England, if you’re going to live here and not capitulate to seasonal misery, you have to make some sort of peace with the cold. I depend on being outside for my sense of well-being. The couch will kill me, even as it wraps me in its tender embrace.