Yesterday we had our annual furnace check-up, and the result was bad news: the inspector found a crack in the heat exchanger unit, which could cause carbon monoxide to leak into the house. So he “red-tagged” our furnace, which meant that he had advised us of the problem and we could decide whether or not to use the furnace.
That left us with one of the more easy and obvious decisions we’ve had to make lately. After weighing the options for a fraction of a nanosecond, we decided that rather than senselessly flirt with death from carbon monoxide poisoning, we would turn off the furnace — which was just about at the end of its normal life span, anyway — and buy a new one.
In the meantime, we’re enduring life in a cold house. Fortunately, it’s not super-cold yet; today when we woke up it was 34 degrees outside and the indoor temperature, according to our thermostat, had dipped to 58. That’s well below the comfort zone for most Americans, but it’s really not too bad. So long as you bundle up and keep moving during the day, and add lots of blankets at night, you can manage perfectly well. I once spent a weekend on an island on a Canadian lake and slept in an unheated bunkhouse when the overnight temperature got down into the teens, and enjoyed it immensely.
In some ways, living in a cold house has its little advantages. I tend to sleep better in the cold, anyway, and this will give us every incentive to get out of the house and do things this weekend. I wouldn’t want to live footloose and furnace-free long-term, though.
Yikes. It was raw, wet and blustery this morning — so cold that I had to wear a coat over my Vassar hoodie, so cold that even the usually talkative jogging pairs were quiet and a bit shriveled in the wind, so cold that the sky looked bleak and angry and a little crack of blue framed with morning sun stood out sharply before being swallowed by the roiling clouds.
It’s been so cold for so long I’ve begun to wonder whether there is any warmth left in the world. So, to lift my spirits, I’m consciously trying to think warm thoughts.
Yesterday, as I was walking on a frigid downtown Columbus street, leaning into a biting wind and trying to dodge icy patches and unplowed snow on the sidewalks, I thought of a place we visited in Antigua in December 2012.
I thought of the infinity pool that looked out over a bright blue bay dotted with rugged islands and sailboats. I thought of the sand between my toes at a ratty poolside bar as Kish and I savored some well-prepared pina coladas and visited with other guests. I thought of a catamaran on the beach, its colorful sail flapping in a gentle breeze, of the beautiful stretch of sand and rocks and driftwood a short walk away, and of the tables where Richard, Russell and I played cribbage and drank Caribbean beer.
And I thought of baking sand, blazing sun, oozing suntan lotion and its coconut oil smell, deep shade under a palm frond umbrella on the beach, warm salt water, and hot, sun-dappled pavement and wooden walkways.
Sure, I was still in snowbound, sub-zero Columbus, Ohio — but I felt better.
There’s no mistaking it — it’s cold this morning! The temperature is in the 30s, steam is rising from the neighborhood ponds, and the landscape is starting to get that washed-out look you associate with late fall and (shudder) early winter.
I’m not ready for winter yet! I’m not ready for the flowers to die, and snowflakes to fall! Can’t we have a real autumn, with some Indian summer mixed in, first?
When the temperature gets down to the single digits or below, the Mad Bomber fur hat is taken from the closet and worn with grateful appreciation. On even the iciest days it keeps my head warm on our morning walks. As Penny and I were strolling during this past weekend’s cold snap, I was moved to compose this bit of doggerel: