Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Old Man Winter's Friend

It's not fashionable to claim that one enjoys cold weather. I think that fondness for the warm months comes from the easy availability of central air conditioning.  People have grown soft, or at least they complain more than older folks I used to know, people who grew up before climate controls and climate change that force us, increasingly, indoors.  When I go to big-box DIY stores, I see the ideal of the suburban cocoon: a place with all new fixtures and floors so warm and smooth that the models pictured in the displays are in socks or barefoot.

I live in a home where you'll get an inch-long splinter in your foot if  you try that.  And I like that.  I live in a home where we set the heat-pump LOW to save money and once in a while, I have to restock the woodstove in the middle of the night to keep the house warm. And I like that, too.

There's merit to not living with every possible modern comfort. One hard fact of country life is that one must work outdoors in all seasons and weather. In July and August, for the past two decades, I have been required to get up early, at hours my students could never fathom, and work outdoors. Once I only did that to go fishing. My academic year permits this latitude with hours during the dog-days of Summer, yet my job also works against my being out doors during the very best months in Virginia for putting in fences, mowing fields, repairing building, cutting wood, and all of the million things that my father-in-law taught me.

Now, living in the country instead of simply apprenticing, I make the best of whatever weather I get. I do have more time on a hot day, early in the morning, to do a few chores before the burning tyrant called the Sun rises and makes the day and me suffer. In winter, however, I can excel on most days, save one like today, where the thermometer struggles to get out of the single digits. That's very odd for Virginia, though historically, the region could count on a few single-digit lows each year.

So today I sit indoors, work on the semester ahead, and wish there were snow as well as cold. They just don't come together here, as they once did.

Cold weather does cut down on mosquitoes in summer, and it makes life bearable cleaning out barns or working in tight spots where, come spring, I might find a Copperhead ready to bite me.  Black Widows are still around, that that is why gloves are a godsend (and you don't work in this sort of cold without gloves).

Winter has a spiritual side, too. The long dark nights lead a person to introspection. Yes, that's not fashionable in this day, either; to turn off the mobile device and just think about things. But when it's cold, and the coffee and tobacco pipe are warm by the wood stove, there are few things in life more comforting. Then the trek to the log-rack becomes a reminder that we should never take warmth and comfort as expectations.

If life were a little harder, day to day, what would we stop taking for granted?

No comments:

Post a Comment