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Musings: Prisoner of the Cold

The thermometer that is incorporated into the clock located on the wall in my lanai has not registered higher than 44 degrees Fahrenheit at about 7.30am for the past week.  This morning it indicated 34 degrees Fahrenheit at 8.35am. It has not climbed above 58 degrees Fahrenheit in the past seven days at any time of the day!

The corner of the lanai where the clock is located is the most sheltered and the warmest spot in my garden.  It is protected from wind chill and receives sun for the better part of the day. Now that the lanai has been built it is even more protected from the elements.  And it is “bloody cold out there” as my true Brit self would say.  And I know that it is even colder out in the open, more exposed garden.

I am not a happy camper.  I feel like a prisoner to the cold.  Today especially the sun was shining and it looked glorious outside.  The sky was blue and everything was in clear and sharp focus – including the frost that sparkled like diamonds on the house immediately across the street from mine!!

I have waited patiently for the number to go higher.  I have waited patiently not to feel the immediate chill when I slide open the lanai door.  It feels just like standing in front of an open freezer door.  I have waited patiently to be able to go out to my sanctuary, lap top in hand, to invite the Muse out to play. 

I can wait no longer.  So I have dragged a small table over and placed it right in front of the sliding door that looks into my lanai and I have set up the lap top so that I can at least see out into the garden via the lanai.  It’s not quite the same; the fresh air, the usual Florida warmth, and the songs of the birds are missing.  I don’t feel the usual joy in my heart, but it’s better than succumbing any longer to this sense of total imprisonment.

It’s not that I cannot or have not been outside the house this week.  I am not a wimp and I do carry some memory in my bones of dealing with a cold English winter.  In fact a few days ago I received an email from an old school chum who reminded me of the previous “worst English winter” that we all experienced as students returning to our various colleges and universities in January 1963.

The college that I attended, Coloma Teacher Training College, was set in a very rural area (read “out in the sticks”, or perhaps here in America you say “out in the boon docks”), south of London.  It was located a couple of miles outside a very small village called West Wycombe.  We were so isolated that the local villagers thought we were a college full of unwed mothers or mentally handicapped women.  Being typical college students, we made sure our behaviour did nothing to change their minds.  Many was the evening that, bolstered by a drink or two and with pillows stuffed under our coats, we would carousel through the village singing slightly “naughty” songs. 

Other evenings would find us trudging down to the village store with the hoods of our duffel coats up over our heads. Like most female (and male) students in those days we all had long long hair and we would comb it forward over our faces.  We limped along, one foot in the gutter, the other on the curb, muttering indecipherable words and stopping suddenly to peer through our hair at people we passed.  We thought we were being very risque’ and very avant garde.  (It was cool to think in French phrases in those days.)

But that winter was quite spectacular.  I remember returning after the Christmas holidays, getting off the bus (I lived outside the college with a college-picked family), walking through the village and thinking how picturesque it all seemed with the flurries of snow swirling all around me.  I walked out the other end of the village and turned the corner to cross the recreation fields that separated the village from the college.

I clearly remember stopping in my tracks, jaw dropped, and not sure quite what to think.  It suddenly seemed as though I was at the North Pole as a vast expanse of pure white opened up in front of me.  The falling snow was  thick enough that I couldn’t see to the other side of the field.  There was not another soul in sight.

I stood there for a few moments just taking in the whole God-beauty of the scene.  I was well dressed for the weather and had on a pair of knee high boots.  When I took my first step out into the field I sank into soft snow so deep it came over, and into, the top of my boots.  I think I took maybe three or four more steps before I realized this was not a very wise thing to do, and jumped back quickly onto the pavement, all the time aware of the icy cold that was surrounding my feet.

I tramped back a hundred yards to a small cafe and sat down to empty out the snow from my boots.  My feet were soaking and freezing cold.  I looked up at the woman who owned the cafe and to whom we had been very risque and avant garde on several occasions.  I guess she overlooked my past transgressions and took pity on me because she handed me a dry tea towel. 

These were not the days of cell phones.  She allowed me to use the telephone in the cafe to call the college, and I found out that they had not been able to telephone all the out-students in time to warn them not to attempt to come into college.  Grimly I made my way home with very cold feet.

The snow lasted well into March that year.  We were all sick and tired of it by the time the last little mounds had disappeared from the sides of the road.  I spoke to my sister in London two days ago and she too remembered that winter. She confirmed that the snow at the moment is very reminiscent of back then.  Let’s hope for their sake that it doesn’t last so long.

Well, I have beaten the cold and done my writing.  The Muse was fairly happy at playing indoors because she could at least see the outdoors.  But I will be much happier when the temperatures rise a little and I don’t feel so hunched up in my body and my soul.  Warmth has a liberating effect in both areas.