Sunday, January 16, 2005

air seriously

This, of course, is all in my head. But as the temps this past week moved from mild and wet to below freezing, the air changed, too. Below freezing, it takes on a brisk seriousness, the kind of seriousness I experienced as a child, eating catfish. Adults warned us kids about how easy it was to choke on a catfish bone. To this day I cannot eat catfish without remembering those admonitions carrying the possibility of getting a bone stuck in my throat.

Below freezing temps have a seriousness because there is no gentle room for error if one is going to move around in it. Clothes choices change. Driving around in a car, one must be prepared for having to walk out in the cold, particularly if ice or snow are also present. The colder the temps, the more serious about it I become.

Some of this comes from having grown up in the milder climes of Central Texas. And for having experienced my first real winters in eastern Iowa in the late 70s, both blizzard years, where temps often did not get above zero.

So now the air has changed. If the air brings on seriousness, once the temps go below freezing, it also has a harder quality about it, too. You feel it on your skin, the dryness of it. It is telling your body to take it seriously.

Driving home from work this week, after the first really cold day, I noticed how the wisps of clouds and vapors from steam isolated and stranded in mid-air, delicately pulled from the wash of the sky. This is not a new observation, merely one that pops up in my head once it gets colder, particularly when there are not many clouds in the sky.

Last night it snowed, and for much of the morning today, the sky was mushy, as if someone had put a scarf over the sun to blunt its rays. There were enough holes in the clouds to show that there was a sun, but only through the gauzy sheen of the clouds.

Yesterday, we walked Franklin and the brittle puddles and streams of frozen water, leftover from the heavy rains earlier in the week, were cracked and jagged -- in many places they had collapsed. The snow this morning was not heavy -- four or five inches in the townlet -- but thick enough for the dog to run and hop through it, looking for the smells of a rabbit or mole who had moved over or through the snow. Each time that we came back in, I had to wipe the white covering off his black snout.


Kathy said...

Don't be ashamed of taking the cold seriously. It can kill. I always make sure I have blankets in the car for the winter. You get stuck in snow, you have to walk for help when the windchill is a negative number--you will soon discover the nature of the enemy. Even if you wait for help to come, the car will only stay warm as long as there is gas in the tank to make the engine generate heat. It is best to have that blanket in the car. And even if I know I am "only" going to be in the car and then in the nice, artificially heated store, I always make sure I bring clothing sufficient to withstand the elements.

Don said...

Kathy -- good points!