The Big Freeze, Shut-In, The Cold Creeps In
Most of the United States is in a deep freeze right now. I retired from Minnesota to Oregon precisely because I didn’t want to deal with snow and ice, but this week we get to deal with both.
Minnesota might be colder, generally, and get more snow, generally, but the state also boasts many sanders, de-icers, and snow plows. In Oregon, I don’t get automated messages about moving my car for snow clearing in the neighborhood.
Because there are few snow plows or sanders, a day of ice and snow followed by days of sub-freezing temperatures means the snow and ice stay. I stay in my house, figuring I’m one of those old ladies we used to call shut-ins, meaning they couldn’t get out and about on these icy sidewalks.
The inside of my single-pane windows accumulates frost. A childhood craft was painting frost pictures with stencils on windows, using Glass Wax. Glass Wax was a good product — I could use some.
I did venture to the grocery store, before more wintry mix precipitation — freezing rain and snow. It was a flashback to early COVID-19, with shelves cleared of products. Delivery trucks are stranded, too.
Ice means tall trees fall, and with them go power lines, heat, and comfort. Many people here and across the country have it worse than I do.
The football playoffs required shovel-wielding volunteers, and warming shelters have opened up around cities for the homeless or those without power and resources. Snowbirds have been delayed in their home airports, iced in from the sun and sand.
These are reading days, writing days, and binge-watching days. I’m a bit bored with each and want to go out and play.
I can flash back to The Great Blizzard of my childhood. The winds blew whiteouts for three days, and drifts went up to the rooftops when the snow finally stopped. I owned a parka, high snow boots, and thick mittens then. My brothers and I made a cozy snow fort in a large drift; a cave large enough for three small children to snuggle in and admire their handiwork.
My children remember with delight the few days we spent playing board games by candlelight. The electronic and electric options were out, for a brief while. When they happen in decent temperatures, the power outages are a time for forced slowdown and human interaction.
One more day of accumulating cabin fever.
Then the temperatures rise and we resume walking, driving, and seeing other people.
I remember the time New York City was shut down as snow accumulated, and all the tenants in my small building opened up their doors, took out their booze, and we had a spontaneous roving party. Storms do that when we have an unexpected time-out, unplanned time to fill.
The doldrums referred to that part of the sea near the equator, where a sailing ship could becalmed, with no wind to fill the sails and move the ship forward. It’s odd, that the word “becalmed” could lead to frustration, no movement, and time lost.
I should become becalmed by this January respite — a time of forced timelessness when all manner of procrastinated chores could be finished. But in the doldrums, we tend to stare out at the stationary horizon, real or metaphorical.
I am thankful, that we still get these seasonal cycles, that we still are forced into the Doldrums. Besides, my life is slower now, anyway, and slowing down even more is momentary, a pause in the Pause.
Sharon Johnson is a grandmother who usually walks by the river.