Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Degrees Of Cold

It's been below -30 degrees Fahrenheit in these parts. To some, it is an unfathomable cold, to others it merely fits in a range. The range might be described in more tongue in cheek ways. While not original measures, they do seem to be part of the collective descriptors of cold.

32 Getting chilly, might need a jacket.

0 Nostrils stick together. Snow sounds are "crunchy". Two layers minimum.

-10 Outer jacket shells sound crispy. Light crystals form on browse and lashes.

-20 Snow sounds are "squeaky".

-30 Three layers minimum. All skin covered. Eyelashes form 2 inch "falsies".

-40 School cancelled. Everyone else report for work.

And so forth.

The coldest temperatures I recall were in the winter of 1988. Winds were 135 mph and temperatures dropped below -70. Electricity went out. Municipal water slowed to a trickle and even natural gas valves froze. The only way to stay warm was to find someone with a wood stove and move in!

Extreme cold often surprises us, but is recognized as necessary. It kills off the pests that hurt our grain and forestry crops. Wildlife is challenged to forage and herds are thinned. Grain prepares for spring emergence. Water doesn't evaporate off. All these processes are essential to our East slope landscape and livelihood.

I know that it reminds me that no matter how I prepare, something larger is always in control. Rather than fuss and whine, I can sink under my quilt and sip my cocoa, and remember to enjoy the diamonds that sparkle on the prairie and that spring will come soon enough.

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