Winter Outside


Cold? O yes! The whole Atlantic seaboard region is below zero—and that’s in Fahrenheit, folks. We here in Northern Westchester are right in there, as is NYC, though the urbanites have the standard ten degree boost upward that all big cities generate (in waste heat). Up here in ‘god’s country’ the temperature is closer to the rest of the Hudson Valley, but not quite so cold.

Our snow is middling, less than a foot high—and hasn’t fallen anew for two days now. Our house has no insulation worthy of the title and our windows are all old school, requiring the summer screens and the winter storm-windows, of which we have none. And the glazing is so old the panes rattle in the frames.

We do all right, indoor-temp-wise, as long as the wind doesn’t blow. That’s when things get dicey at the Dunn homestead. A stiff wind can blow, seemingly, right through our living room and into the kitchen! The rooms that withstand it best are those that are stuffy at any other time. But ice on the trees can knock out the power lines—and does, on an average of twice a winter. The house becomes a dank, dark cave—then it’s time for staying in bed with extra blankets and warm clothes. Better to move to Nana’s, over in Heritage Hills—unless she’s got power out, too.

So winter is my least favorite season—I’ve always been overly sensitive to cold and my tobacco-smoking makes me even colder in my extremities due to clogged capillaries. I can easily stay warm by active exertion, but only until I get tired and sweaty—and then the sweat makes things worse. Plus, I get tired out in about 90 seconds, nowadays, so that’s no help at all.

But winter can be wonderfully silent. All the windows and doors are closed; none of the hot-rods are burning rubber in the street; no one is setting off fireworks—and the snow is something of a sound-baffle, absorbing sound rather than reflecting it. With really deep snow, we do get snowmobiles dragging around the local streets and that noise is terrible, but that’s only when the snow falls so hard and thick that the plows can’t keep up.

I’m always struck by the uselessness of modern homes without electricity running through them. It’s all fun and games until the power goes out. Suddenly, there’s no heat; there’s no running water (toilets don’t flush); there’s no phone or lamps or TV or Internet. In the warmer weather, a power outage can destroy hundreds of dollars-worth of frozen and refrigerated food—that’s the one advantage of a winter power-outage—the frozen food is still safe, if I put it on the porch. Small comfort, when it gets so cold that I go outside to warm up; when reading is only possible during daylight; and when, the one time I really need the comfort of music, the iPod never outlasts the outage. Play my own music, you say? Sure, but when my fingers are cold nothing is more painful than playing on keys that are colder—when my fingers actually get colder from touching the keyboard!

When I said winter was nice and quiet, I didn’t mean quiet during a power outage—unlike me, everyone else in this neighborhood has a generator. It’s a chorus of diesel combustion engines, night and day, until power is restored. Now that’s annoying—and no less so for knowing those thumping-generator-people still have lights and running water—probably even heat. Speaking of which, I should like to know who designed home-heating furnaces to require electricity?—the darn things burn fuel, a AAA battery could handle the thermostat’s requirements—it’s poor design that’s lasted decades, and will no doubt remain for decades longer! O, I get so mad.

Luckily for me, I had just received my two new blankets, a queen-size and a throw, from Amazon when this cold snap arose—I had a wonderfully cozy few nights, rather than cursing the drafts and wishing I had more blankets. This new ‘plush’-type blanket material is very soft and warm—and they’ve somehow determined how to make them less static-ey than wool blankets, which is great. And my fears of a blackout during this big freeze were without cause.

I love winter when it stays outside.

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