The part of winter that I dislike the most is the coldest day. In either January or February it arrives causing the Mercury to plunge to a yearly low, though we may not know it at the time. In Connecticut, the low is often around 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Some years it can be in the teens but often it is in the single digits.
At that low point there is no melting or water, just cold, blue ice or white powdery snow. Going outside means donning more winter garb than is typical. Along with a heavy jacket comes thick gloves, a hat and scarf that sometimes must cover your mouth and nose leaving no trace of skin that can be pierced by the chill of the day.
This week it is likely we had our most frigid day of the year and for me the coldest day of my life. When I woke on Sunday morning the tilted white thermometer that hangs outside my bathroom window read –14 degrees. The coldest temperature I had ever experienced was –5; how would an additional 9 degrees feel.
The outside landscape didn’t seem much different from more temperate teens or 20s: the rhododendrons’ leaves were completely desiccated, with curled dark green leaves hanging limply appearing ready to drop. The birds fluff their feathers to stay warm fighting for a place on the feeder. There are little holes in the snow: the larger ones made by chipmunks the smaller by mice looking for a bit of food. I see their tracks around the base of the bird feeders, from which a few sunflower kernels escape their consumption.
Once outside, I notice the difference. It hurts to breathe. The cold air entering my lungs stings entering and leaving. My eyes tear-up behind my glasses. The tears freeze moments after they form forcing me to blink to break the bond of ice that is forming around my eyes. The tips of my fingers start to go numb though I have my best gloves on. Small icicles hang from my mustache.
Like many chills this one is short and today with snow the temperatures start to rise. By tomorrow the temperatures will be in the mid 50s, a 65-degree swing in 48 short hours.