Janet Sheridan: Wow, it’s cold

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Janet Sheridan

Last Sunday, I raised the blinds as a hardy neighbor walked his dog by our house: an ordinary sight, except for the lowered earflaps on his hat and the hound’s embarrassment at wearing a red-and-yellow doggy sweater.

Fingernail-resistant frost edged our windows.

When Joel opened the door to retrieve the paper, frigid air invaded, bullied the furnace heat and touched my face with frozen fingers.

“Hmm,” I thought. “Must be a cold one.”

On Monday morning, I poured a cup of coffee and checked my e-mail. A brother wrote he’d heard about our weekend low temperatures on The Weather Channel.

“Are you folks in Craig OK?” he asked.

I looked out my window at the 8:00 street scene: schoolchildren walking to school with red ears and no hats; cars on slick snow trailing peacock plumes of exhaust; a bundled-up fellow riding a bicycle with one hand stuffed in his pocket; a neighbor, wearing a red hat and a happy smile, shoveling her sidewalk; two laughing men in a pickup pulling a trailer loaded with snow machines; and a city truck spewing sand at intersections.

Yup. We’re alright.

When our winters turn bitterly cold and our world feels brittle — as though it would shatter into frozen fragments at a shout — we go on with our lives. But we talk.

During a brief stop at the grocery store, I heard: “My dogs love this weather; we let them sleep inside.”

“Even my high school kid put on a coat this morning.”

“I breathe deeply on cold days to freeze any bad bugs in my body.”

“Damn truck wouldn’t start. Again.”

I like thinking I’m tough enough to survive in a place where temperatures hover below zero, 25 degrees above feels mild, and 36 degrees with sunshine causes us to exclaim happily and hold our faces to the sun.

I learned about the gumption of Moffat County’s populace during a meeting at the district administration office the first winter I worked there. I asked how many snow days were typically called during a school year.

Everybody laughed—at length. I thought I noted a tinge of hysteria, but I’m not sure.

Last year, during a cold spell, a friend told me, “I don’t mind the freezing temperatures, but when I walk to work, the constant squeaking gets to me.”

I shared this amusing comment with my brother, who lives near St. George, Utah. A puzzled silence followed.

Since retiring, my appreciation for winter has grown: white, frozen waves camouflaging the earth’s nakedness; raucous crows scolding from tree tops; frosting fluffing up on branches, electric lines and fences.

I like wearing a stocking cap over uncombed hair and gliding on cross-country skis through fields of diamonds shadowed by tree branches fuzzy with frost, like antlers in velvet.

I’m happy as I pull on snowshoes to hike a silent, white-cloaked Cedar Moun-

tain. And I enjoy one of retired life’s greatest pleasures: getting up on a cold-choked morning with no need to rush out into the frozen world.

After my sophomore year of college, my parents moved to Wyoming. I traveled home to Lander for Christmas during college and for many years after I married.

Each time, I draped myself in knitted throws, sat by Dad’s wood-burning stove, piled extra quilts on my bed and complained.

“Why,” I asked my parents, “would anyone choose to live in this kind of cold?”

Years later, when I told Dad I was moving to Craig, he reminded me of my comments and wondered if I was about to “leap out of the igloo onto the ice floe. “

Yes, I was.

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