The train came barreling through the snow one morning this week and for a minute, I was transported to Siberia, to the cold climes of Doctor Zhivago where men wore fur hats and women warmed their hands in muffs and where the ever-present cold sting makes you wonder, How did people live in such an inhospitable place where even a house in the countryside was glazed in a sheath of ice, glinting beautifully in the sun, but that must have felt like living in a freezer or one of those ice hotels that I will never understand.

And sure, that was a movie, but there’s Alaska and Antarctica where real people actually live—willingly—who will never know the joy of wearing a bikini or going outside without a ski mask. I can’t imagine anyone in cold climates even bothers fixing their hair.

Here, we’ve surpassed the region’s record of snowfall in January by a foot already with two more months of winter to go. Another foot just fell this week, bringing the total to more than 60 inches of snow. And there’s more to come on Wednesday (snow storms are scheduled for Wednesdays, apparently). I can’t get enough of shoveling. I love poking around the driveway with a shovel trying to find my car. I love a day that threatens to take your breath away—and freeze it in midair. My new hobbies are seeing how far I can walk without slipping on ice and wondering if the snowbanks can swallow my knee-high snow boots.

At least here, though, our houses are not ice prisons and we thaw out eventually enough to de-layer, tentatively venturing out without a scarf on that one brilliant spring day, and returning at last to our core body temperature just as November rolls around and it’s time to do it all over again.



The joy of boots

Isn’t it awesome when you find the perfect snow boots and you order them and then Amazon tells you, Oh, by the way: these are out of stock, so you won’t be getting them anytime soon. Like ever. So, after much research and online comparison shopping (hmm, this review says they fit snugly; this review says they have no arch support; this review says they have too much arch support, but they’re the best boots ever) you settle on Dream Boots #2 only to discover when you’re trying to put them in your shopping cart, that they won’t go in the shopping cart because they don’t have your size. 

So, finally, you go back to Zappo’s because browsing there is like shoegasm after shoegasm, and you find that Dream Boots #3 are well reviewed, fashionable, and on sale, so you shove them in your cart and click Checkout before anyone can buy the last size 8, and then they arrive the day before a foot of snow is predicted and you spend half the night waterproofing them even thought the next day not one snowflake falls from the sky, but you don’t care because it will snow again in New England—probably in June—and you will have snow boots ready and waiting for you like your own personal militia to protect you from the elements. Or you’ll wear them to the beach and look ridiculous, but by God you will wear them. 

I need a horse blanket

On a recent walk, I saw a horse munching on hay in a cold, snowy paddock yet he seemed content. The blanket looked so heavy it might smother me, but it did appear to be keeping this giant warm. I’m thinking of investing. And taking horseback riding lessons. And taking a trip to Montana where you can get up at dawn when it’s cold enough to want to wear a horse blanket while you’re riding a horse. And you can ride in wide open spaces, sing campfire songs while roasting marshmallows, and be stunned by the sky.

The one glove dilemma

My heart sinks when I spy one lonely mitten on the T or a glove smushed and alone on the sidewalk, forever lost. Finding the perfect gloves are impossible. Plus, that one hand is gonna freeze until you do. This quote, which accompanied my A Word A Day email yesterday, describes the agony that the loser of the single glove must endure:

Losing one glove / is certainly painful, / but nothing / compared to the pain, / of losing one, / throwing away the other, / and finding / the first one again. -Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996)

Hello, pretty snow

Isn’t the snow beautiful? Isn’t it just lovely the way it drifts and drapes the trees?

Isn’t it cool to wake up and look out the window and find you actually can’t see out the window? Isn’t it fun when it makes your car all frosty and you have to spend 17 billion hours scraping the ice off the windshield and 18 more hours shoveling just so you can use your driveway?

Oh, and isn’t it great the way it piles up on sidewalks so you have to clomp through the icy mounds getting your feet wet because the mountain was more quick-sand snow than solid snowbank and you can’t find boots that are good in the snow AND not unsightly clodhoppers?

And aren’t snowplows awesome when they’re not scraping asphalt and two in the morning and dumping cement-like piles at the end of your driveway that make you ponder whether it might be worth buying a Caterpillar. And is it really a sign of insanity that you did a little research on what it would take to buy, say, a mustard-yellow 2003 front loader, which is $169,000, incidentally, and you think, Huh, well that sounds pretty reasonable?

Snowy cemetery

I’m trying to embrace winter, and while I resist the double-mitten cold, I try to find joy in the beauty of it while shivering like a swimmer after an icy plunge. Mt. Auburn Cemetery is one place I haunt for its peacefulness. It’s quiet mood has a lot to do with the arboretum-like feel—the sleepy willow trees and placid ponds—but mostly I think it’s because the people are dead. Dusted with snow, it’s at its most tranquil.

You can see I like trees.

A lot.

And the occasional frozen flower.

So, in my least favorite season, I like to ponder this quote:

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus

Boot crisis

Alert. There’s been a boot buying catastrophe. After getting public input and long pondering which winter boots to buy, I placed my order for the plum patent leather number. Anticipating their arrival any day now, I would run up the porch steps when I got home hoping that the estimated one week shipping actually meant overnight. So, I was more than disappointed when I got an email from Amazon informing me that my boots, ordered from one of their shoe merchants, is out of stock.

I have taken to bed in hopes that I might recover in time to celebrate Christmas. My roommate reminded me that had I gone with the furry pair that she recommended, it’s likely I would be walking around the house in my boots as we speak. 

Instead, I’m checking the forecast every 4.5 minutes to make sure no snow is predicted, because even though I haven’t owned snow boots in years, I feel having a pair when the snow comes is imperative this winter, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to reach a decision before the spring. These things take time.

I’ve missed you, puffy

The puffy coat made its season debut this morning after I wrestled it out of the closet. It requires its own closet, but I am not so flush in the closet department, so it has to share. Anyway, its arrival means 1) it’s cold and 2) the return of the Puffy Coat Mafia. Look out, people.

Also, this may be the winter I break down and buy snow boots. How I’ve managed to live in New England without them for years is a mystery, even to me.

Wardrobe dilemma

Is it me or have you run out of sweaters to wear this winter? Winter seems especially 1) long and 2) cold and I’m running out of cozy options. I mean, I have sweaters, but I only like a handful. A pile of wooliness lays dormant in my under-the-bed (and thus out-of-mind) container, none of which will get worn before spring. And liking say, four of the ones I have, means I really have no sweaters. So, I went shopping. 

Now, if I were in the market for a bathing suit or a summer frock, man, I would have cleaned up. But sweaters? Gone, baby, gone. Pants? Forget it. You can choose from capris or walking shorts only. If you want to cover your ankles, you’ll have to wait till fall. I was also thinking it might be nice to have a scarf-hat-glove set that matches seeing as we’re only halfway through the winter and I’m pretty sure my purple scarf does not go with my green hat. But that pie-in-the-sky idea was as silly as shopping for a bathing suit while there’s still snow on the ground. At Target, it’s only sun hats and beach totes—tempting, but not very warm. For now, it looks like I will have to take my advice from one of those magazine spreads that tells you how to travel with like, three items and change your look: accessorize. Looks like the old scarves and bangles are coming out of retirement.

Skirting winter

Ever since You’ve Got Mail, I’ve been a fan of the cute sweater set and skirt look. Except that in real life, winter is cold and not skirt-friendly. Also, I’m not Meg Ryan. Also, also, they require tights, and wearing tights makes me feel like I’m being strangled by an anaconda. A soft, patterned anaconda, but an anaconda nonetheless.

But, yesterday, upon hearing that it would reach a near 50 degrees, I reached into the back of my dark closet (land of pretty dresses yearning for spring) and said, “Winter, you will not defeat me.” I pulled on some toasty tights despite the persistent feeling of leg strangulation, along with a cute orange and blue skirt and a blue v-neck, and I was good to go. The warmth enticed me to walk instead of taking the bus.

Ten minutes in, I felt a splattering on my calves and remembered why I don’t wear skirts in the winter: winter breeds mud and mud loves to attach itself to my snake-strangled legs. Now, in addition to fending off the anaconda, I had freckle-like spots everywhere and looked like a patient in the throes of a funny-colored chicken pox outbreak. This would never happen to Meg Ryan.


Phil, you’re a punk

I was just chatting with a student from Spain who had this to say about his first winter in Boston:

“It’s cold.”

“True,” I agreed. I hesitated and then broke the news that we’re in for six more weeks of hell, according to the soothsayer rodent Punxsutawney Phil. 

“Oh, yes,” the student said. “Happy Marmot Day!”

I stifled a laugh, but his funny take on the name did make me want to wring Phil’s furry neck a teensy bit less. I bet that fur ball has a boatload of life insurance.