November 21, 2017

What Not to Do When It is Cold Outside

• By John F. Chisholm •

The wind shrieks, eddies and foams over the snow, made visible by the ice particles within its vortex.  The roads plowed yesterday are drifted over this morning.  We look outside and shudder.  This is what we get for choosing a home atop a hill surrounded by field.  Alas!  Our dread is of no consequence.

Animals are independent of the weather.  They have to be cared for regardless.  Dogs have to be walked.  Period.  It’s never a matter of wouldn’t it be nice to skip it, just for today.

We open the door in fear and trepidation, our breath instantly whipped away by the wind.  The dogs struggle to be first out the door, sugaring their coats with snow, milling about the yard.  We tighten the scarves over our faces, tug our hats and gloves into place and hurry after them.

“Gulp-a-wanna-goo-goo-lah,” yells the bundled yeti wading through the snow beside me.  I glance over.  The words come as vapor from the muffler over my wife’s face.  Like conversation with your dental hygienist, communication today is severely impaired by circumstance.

“I can’t hear you!” I yell back, my own words indecipherable, even to me.
“Gulp-a-wacko-coo-coo!” Wendy hollers, pointing, insistent.

I make a show of turning in place and looking around before staring back at her.  Then I shrug.  I exaggerate the gesture, arms outstretched, palms up.  “What?”

She sighs.  I can’t hear it.  I see it.  Her breath condenses as ice on her scarf.
We slog out through the drifts over what we imagine is the road heading south over our fields.

At least the dogs are having a good time.  They bound about, pouncing on each other, thrusting their noses deep into the snow and inhaling deeply.  Then they bark and run circles around us, playing tag.

I’m freezing.  Each successive wind blast cuts deeper.  My blue jeans aren’t any insulation, not this morning.  I should have taken the time to pull on wool trousers.  I resolve that if conditions are still this severe by dinner, I’ll wear them for our afternoon walk.  Of course I should plow this road again, too.  But right now exercise is all that’s keeping my blood flowing.  The more work walking provides, the better.

I slog onward, determined to get this over as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, my wife has had surgery.  Her hips were replaced last year.  There is no hurrying her.  In fact, she does well to walk at all.  She takes my arm and together we keep at it, inching along painful and slow.

Finally we reach the bottom of the field and turn around.  If I thought the wind was directly off the Arctic ice cap previously, that’s nothing compared to what we face now.  Literally.  Because all the way back home we’ll be walking directly into the weather.

My wife tries to tell me something again.

I don’t bother replying.  I can’t understand a word anyway.  Besides, under the scarf, my mouth is frozen.

At last we reach the house.  We’re in a panic to get indoors.  I want to sit on the woodstove.  There’s no danger.  I’ll have to warm up before catching fire.  The front door slams behind us.  Dogs mill around, jostling for space.  We shed layers, struggling to embrace the warmth sooner.

“Wow!” I exclaim, scarf off and coat hung up at last.  “That was cold.”  I walk over to look at the thermometer.  “It’s seven degrees outside.  Including wind chill, it’s has to be below zero.”  I shiver and shove a dog out of the way on my way to the stove.

My wife hangs up her scarf, too.  “You could have been a lot warmer,” she tells me.

“What?” I reply before daring her.  “How?”

“It’s no wonder you’re frozen,”  she answers.  “I tried to tell you.”  She points.

I look down.

“Your fly was open the whole trip.”