The cold fell like a hammer: sudden and crushing. Last week the temperatures hovered around thirty; plenty chilly, don't get me wrong, but not really cold
. On Sunday we went Christmas-tree hunting in the state forest, where you can get a permit for $5, and we looked around under the stands for the little firs and hemlocks that crowded together and would likely never find the sun. It was 30 degrees, or twenty-five. We wore long underwear and scarves and gloves, and crunched through the crust of frozen snow.
Then Sunday night the wind picked up, and the cloudcover cleared, and the temperature dropped. From thirty down and down to zero, and down more. If you count the windchill - which your body will count even if you do not - it dropped to twenty below. Which below means below zero, which is already thirty-two degrees below freezing in our silly little system.
By morning, the wind had slackened some and the mercury risen to six degrees. With the woodstove banked all night it had dropped only to fifty-some in the house (warmer in the living room, much colder in the back bedroom where we sleep with the door closed to avoid cats dancing on our heads at four AM). Our car - a diesel - started only with much grumbling and indignation. Cold enough to freeze the hairs in your nose, which is personally my favorite test of really cold.
Waiting for my bus home from work in the afternoon - the grumbly diesel being with J in Burlington - I stamped my feet and wrapped my scarf around my nose and shivered so hard my back hurt, and it brought a strange memory to mind: at the Gorge in Big Sur, perched on a high rock in the wind, afraid to jump and unwilling to back down, and so standing there embarrassed, arms wrapped tightly about myself, shivering until my knees literally knocked and my back cramped.
I was so distracted by the cold and the memory and the stomping and the shivering that I almost missed the bus when it came. The driver leaned her head out the window and said, Honey, if you're getting in, get in, but I'm closing the door. It's too damn cold out.