Colder than the Hinges of Hell

One week ago I was uncomfortably warm. As I ate in an outdoor Italian bistro the Florida sun kept my gnocchi warm for hours. In the middle of January, I was outdoors in my shirtsleeves talking, laughing, saying goodbye, and sweating with my family.

 

Eight hours later I arrived home in Montana to find my heater broken, my plants dead, my pipes frozen, my refrigerator inoperable, and my house in the low 20’s. It was, without a doubt, the greatest temperature swing I have ever experienced in a day, and I was angry.


I grew up in Florida, and so am comfortable sweating. For 23 years perpetual dampness was my natural state. I know it sounds uncomfortable, but I didn’t think it was. Only after moving out west did I realize that the semi-permanent rash on my ass was caused by the constant humidity of my home. Though I am pleased to be free of that rash, I am still not comfortable with freezing cold.


Inhospitable, snot freezing, dangerous, cold. The kind of cold that lowers sperm counts, and freezes cars to the asphalt. It’s true that one can dress accordingly in the cold whereas there is only so much a person can do to stay cool in Florida before children begin to scream. I find the extra layers to be a bit of a burden though. My first winter in a cold climate I lost around 17 pairs of gloves. I just wasn’t used to the constant zipping, unzipping, hats on hats off lifestyle of colder climates. Every time I put my gloves down, their presence instantly and permanently fled my mind. They stayed wherever I placed them, and I moved on.


I’ve since developed habits that have enabled me to hold onto a pair of gloves through the frozen winters. I understand dressing in layers now, and I have a nice wardrobe of winter clothes full of fleece, and wool items built to be layered. Even after realizing my house had was colder than a Florida refrigerator, I was able to survive that night in relative comfort.


Through the kind efforts of my landlord and a very groggy furnace technician, my apartment was thawed by that morning. And though our faucets exploded from the freeze, our pipes did not. We’re dealing well with the death of our plants, and it’s now in the mid 60’s in the house. The entire town is underneath whiteness, icicles cling to my house, and the trees are weighed down by their burden of snow, but I am comfortably warm.


Today my girlfriend and I walked through knee high snow in fleece lined pants. My jacket was cinched tight, my gloves tucked into my sleeves, my scarf covering the unprotected skin between my jacket and my hat. We fell backwards and let the snow catch us, we played tag, we ate snow, we hid behind trees, we threw snowballs, I felt the presence of winter.


Though the labels given to seasons are entirely without use in Florida, they still call this time of the year winter. In Montana, winter means that the world is white, the skiing is great, the roads are dangerous, and the sun is gone. Winter means nothing in Florida – a couple of sweat-free weeks during the Holiday celebrations. Now that I’ve adapted and feel at home in the teens, and maybe even below zero, all the wonderful parts of winter warm me.


Retuning home from Florida to find my house crackling with cold was, in an odd way, welcoming. I felt my frozen home tell me about a world that I never knew I was missing. A world where the rash on my ass has gone away, a world where winter means something, a world where spring is something to look forward too, and a world where we have to enjoy the treats of winter while it lasts.