Looking Colder Than It Feels

St. Mary Catholic Church in German Village installed a new “Peace Garden” area along Third Street when it underwent renovation work recently.  Among the items in the Peace Garden is a statue of a seated lady waiting patiently on a bench.  According to the plaque at her feet, it’s a representation of Mrs. Plank, who I suspect was a faithful member of the congregation.

I pass St. Mary every morning on my walk, and I really like the Peace Garden and the statue — except on winter days when it snows.  Because when it snows, as it has for the past few days, the placid Mrs. Plank becomes utterly snow-covered, and seeing her in that condition always makes the snowy day feel a few degrees colder.  Brrrr!  I want to help Mrs. Plank up so she could shed that blanket of snow, brush off her snowbound pillbox hat, and go someplace warm.  Heck, I’d even spring for a cup of coffee at the Starbuck’s next door.

Hitting The Double Nickel

There’s a reason the nuns in The Sound Of Music sang that Maria was “unpredictable as weather.” The only thing predictable about Midwestern winters is that they are gray, wet, and cold — but the precise combination of those qualities varies.

Every once in a while, however, the fates align and a flukey day happens — like today. Sunny, and a high of 55? It’s a day to sit outside and bank some of that warmth and sunshine before tomorrow’s gray chill closes in.

Indoor Day

Today will be a quintessential indoor day. It’s 33 degrees outside, freezing rain has coated the steps and trees and bushes in the backyard, like the one shown above, in a coat of wet, dripping ice, and a hard rain is still pelting down under flat gray skies — and is supposed to continue all day. It’s the kind of day when walking on frozen brick is especially treacherous, when an umbrella will quickly become heavy with ice, and you’re likely to find yourself taking an unwelcome pratfall that leaves you bruised and soaked.

So why risk the elements? Why not accept nature’s wintry verdict, do a few chores inside, and find a good book to read or a TV show to binge watch? Sometimes surviving the bleakness of winter requires acceptance — and savvy avoidance.

Thin-Blooded Again

By the end of last winter, I was a hardened Winter Warrior.  With my hat and coat and scarf and gloves and my flinty exterior, I could walk through sub-zero temperatures and polar breezes without flinching.  In fact, I found the chill bracing.

blood-circulation-signsNow, an all-too-brief spring and summer and autumn later, I find that I’m once again a candy ass who shivers when walking out into temperatures in the teens and feels like all color has been blanched from my face by a brisk wind.  It’s kind of embarrassing.

My grandmother would say that I’ve become thin-blooded.  It’s what she said about people who complained about the cold temperatures and snow and weren’t ready to brave the Midwestern winters.

Of course, blood is blood.  Any scientist would tell you that it doesn’t become thicker during the harsh winter and thinner when the thermometer hits the 70s and 80s.  But I always think of the thin blood concept when the first arctic blast hits the Midwest.  It’s time to get out in the frosty air and thicken that blood up to prepare for the winter to come.

It Could Have Been Worse

According to the weather app on my phone, it’s 56 degrees outside right now, and the temperature today is supposed to hit 70 degrees.  56 degrees, in itself, is like a tropical heat wave, but . . . 70 degrees!  Sure, it’s supposed to rain during the day, but still . . . 70 degrees!  After the long, dark, dank, cold winter we’ve endured in the Midwest, outdoor temperatures that will actually feel warm seem so wildly improbable they can scarcely be imagined.

I’ve written before about the lousy winter weather, and those of us in the Midwest have been feeling pretty sorry for ourselves about it.  And, in fairness, it has been an exceptionally crappy, frigid, snowy winter, so there has been cause for the muttering.  But I do want to note that, as bad as it has been, it could have been worse.  Much worse.

d2e991b7-2bbf-4062-a886-47c3386c060d-02172019_giant_springs_weather_art-bConsider Great Falls, Montana.

Our friends in Big Sky country have been through one of the coldest, most brutal continuous stretches of weather in recorded American history.  As a slack-jawed article in the Washington Post recently recounted, in many parts of Montana temperatures for the entire month of February averaged — averaged — 27 to 28 degrees below normal .  That’s hard to even conceive, and it is the most extreme, extended variance from normal temperatures seen in the lower 48 states in 50 years.  And March began with temperatures going even lower.

Great Falls, Montana, was in the heart of the bone-chilling zone.  The Post article notes that, in that city:  “The mercury didn’t rise above zero on 11 days and dropped to zero or below on 24 nights. Only the first day of the month topped freezing. Its average February temperature finished 27.5 degrees below normal.”

“The punishing and unrelenting cold continued into March. On March 3, the low temperature tanked to a bone-chilling minus-32 in Great Falls. Combined with a high of minus-8, the day finished a whopping 50 degrees below normal. The city concluded its longest stretch on record below freezing on March 7.”

So sure, our weather sucked this winter — but the frozen souls in Great Falls had it much, much worse.  Imagine a March day where temperatures were 50 degrees below normal, or a nearly two-week stretch where the temperature didn’t rise above zero, even once.

It will make hitting 70 today all the sweeter.

Thinking Mainely Positive Thoughts

One way to combat the Midwestern mid-winter gray sky blahs is to consciously think about a better, sunnier, place and time.  It’s even more effective if you really try to lock in specifics about where you’ll be and what it’s like.  My happy mental place of refuge these days envisions a bright, cloudless, pleasantly warm summer day in Maine, sitting on a deck overlooking Stonington Harbor and feeling a slight breeze ruffling by.  Russell’s Christmas presents — he made us a smiling, radiant Mr. Sun and a cool Maine key ring holder — help to keep the mind focused on those ultimate summer days.

February is always a tough month, where it’s impossible not to be sick of winter because it seems like it’s been winter forever.  Rather than despairing of ever becoming truly warm and blessedly free of a drippy nose again, why not indulge in some of the power of positive thinking?  Better days lie ahead, and the current crummy weather is just going to make the eventual sultry summer all the sweeter.