When it’s bitterly cold for long weeks, it’s easy to stop going out for a walk. But then cabin fever sets in…
These are woods near our home, in a town 25 miles north of New York City, with a paved trail a mile long that runs beside a reservoir, whose landmarks — officially, watermarks, I guess — can include several white swans, enormous flocks of geese who rest on the ice mid-migration, and, in the summer, multiple small black turtles and a cormorant who stands on a rock to dry out his wings.
In the winter, though, the woods are silent. I can only hear planes overhead and traffic circling the reservoir and the gurgling of a stream. No scurrying squirrels or chipmunks or birdsong.
It’s a more austere world, the remaining leaves bleached, bare branches etched against the sky, thick fungi crowding a log.
Right now across North America it’s colder than….insert cliche here.
For us Canadians, it’s “really?”
I grew up in Toronto and Montreal, have visited Quebec City several times in winter and even once reported a story from the Arctic Circle in December.
I know cold!
Anyone who survives multiple winters in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal or parts further north — like Yellowknife (- 27 today) or Salluit (-11) — quickly learns how to handle bitter, biting winter winds, frost, ice and snow. As one friend, a former wildlife biologist who worked in the Arctic says, “It’s not the cold. It’s having the right clothing.”
A few tips:
— Don’t wear anything made of metal! If you have piercings on any piece of exposed flesh — earlobes, eyebrows, nose, whatever — take that thing out now. Metal conducts cold. You do not want to invite frostbite. That includes metal watches, bangles and rings.
— Exposed skin can get frostbite within minutes.Wrap a wool, cashmere or polypro scarf or cagoule (Americans call this a neckgaiter; the link is to a $12.99 one in black. Do it!) around as much of your face as possible. Forget vanity! If you have to work outside or spend long hours outdoors, give in and buy a balaclava. Yes, you’ll look like a cat burglar. Deal with it.
— Woolen tights and socks only.Forget any other fabric right now, except cashmere. Only wool will give you the insulation you need. Woolen tights are also super-durable, so even if they cost a little more, you can use them for years.
— Moisturize. Skin is easily dehydrated and chapped by winter winds, so wear plenty of creamy, rich moisturizer and use lip balm. Refresh often.
— Don’t forget SPF.The sun is still shining and your skin still needs protection; choose a moisturizer or facial cream with 15 to 30 SPF.
— Windproof clothing is your best bet— down-filled nylon from makers like LLBean, The North Face, Patagonia, Lands’ End. Look for features you really need right now — a tight elastic cuff deep inside the sleeve so you can tuck your gloves or mittens into it so that not one inch of your flesh is exposed between sleeve bottom and mitten top, a high collar that can cover your throat and lower face and a warm, insulating hood with strings you can draw tight around your face.
— Fur is the best. If that suggestion horrifies you, sorry. But if you can find a fur coat, scarf and/or hat — at thrift stores, vintage stores, Ebay, etc. — fur will keep you warmer than anything, and (sheared fur, like sheared beaver or mink) with minimal bulk.
— Yaktrax can help save you from serious fall and injury. I love these things! For $20, these metal/rubber grippers slip over the soles and sides of your shoes or boots and will make even the slipperiest of sidewalks less terrifying. They’re light and small enough to tuck into your purse or backpack in a Ziploc bag after use.
— Stay dry. Exposed moisture will freeze. That includes wet hair. Yes, I used to get hairsicles as I crossed the University of Toronto campus between winter classes after my early morning squash game. Always wear a warm hat that covers your ears and thick windproof gloves or mittens.
— Drinking hot tea helps. Winter wind is dehydrating and drinking lots of hot tea will warm you quickly and affordably, with no calories. Try a new-to-you blend like Constant Comment or smoky Lapsang Souchong.
This is one hell of a post, by University of British Columbia student Clay Nikiforuk, from rabble.ca:
What do you do when you’re detained by powerful officials, everything you say is presumed deceptive, arbitrary “evidence” is held against you, and you’re treated like a moral deviant? And what if its 2013, you’re a woman, and the “evidence” is that you possess condoms? It happened three times in two weeks — being detained by U.S. border officials on my way to or through the States…
I was detained, yelled at, patted down, fingerprinted, interrogated, searched, moved from room to room and person to person without food, water or being told what was going on for what seemed like forever. Just as I thought they were tiring of me and going to refuse me entry but at least let me back into Aruba, a ‘Bad Cop’ type took me to a distant, isolated office and yelled at me that I was full of shit. He had found information online that in the last couple of years I had been modelling and acting. This, he concluded, was special code for sex work, and I was never going to enter the U.S.A. ever again. I tried not to laugh and cry at the same time. I told him I’m currently writing a book on the sociology of sexual assault.
“Are you looking to be sexually assaulted?”
I blinked at him. I couldn’t breathe.
“Was that meant to be funny?”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“Ah, no. I’m definitely not.”
“Well, it sure seems like you are.”
“… How so?”
He wouldn’t elaborate.
This post raises a whole host of questions about power, sexuality, female agency and abuse of power. I also had my own issues with it because she admits — brave? foolish? — that she was traveling with her lover, a married man. Not my thing. I hate adulterers, frankly; my first husband was one, as was his partner (now his second wife.)
But the larger point remains: whose fucking business is it, when women cross the U.S. border, who we’re fucking, when and why?
Are young, unmarried men subjected to the same sort of interrogation?
I’m betting that’s a “no.”
I’ve also lived through a much milder version of this, as a young, single Canadian regularly crossing the American border for a year or so to visit my then beau, (later first husband), an American I had met when he was at med school in Montreal and who was then doing his residency in New Hampshire.
I did not then know how to drive, at 30, nor did I own a car. I did not understand that, in the United States, traveling anywhere by bus shrieks — at least to border officials — of poverty, desperation and an apparent lack of any economic choice.
To me, as I’m sure it was to Clay, also a well-educated Canadian woman, it was just a damn bus, an affordable, efficient mode of transportation, with no coded message implied.
I was also making, for a young journo, a healthy wage as a staff reporter at the Montreal Gazette, a large regional newspaper. I had a laminated press pass with my photo on it. No matter!
Every single time I crossed the U.S. border and showed it to prove my full-time, staff job in Canada I was subjected to nasty and aggressive interrogation by U.S. border officials — surely the only reason I was dating an American man was to marry him, rightawayso I could escape my hideous, unemployed life in Canada.
I climbed back into the bus every time shaken, crying, humiliated and angry. This bullshit was sexist, ugly and routine, and — luckily — something I’d not been subjected to before.
This was the country I’d be moving to to marry? Jesus!
Like Clay, I was young, single, female. These interrogations scared the shit out of me. How could they not? Would I lose the right to see my sweetie? Lose the privilege of crossing that border then, or forever? What records were they keeping and how could they affect me?
I moved to the United States, with a green card as a permanent legal resident, in July 1988 — after submitting to an AIDS test.
And yes, I learned how to drive and bought my first car, stat. The hell with the bus.
Are you utterly sick of snow and ice yet? There’s more to come.
Coping skills, stat!
Nice piece on how to survive this insanely cold snowy winter, from The Globe and Mail:
Take a young person to whom you are not related to lunch. I did – a charming way to find out about their lives, to reflect on your own children’s progress and to feel generous, hopeful and wise. If you’re young, suggest lunch to a mentor. For sure they will pay!
Volunteer. The eternal cure. Whether it’s to teach literacy to newcomers or to ladle out soup on a cold winter night, helping others never fails to lift your own spirits.
Cook passionately. Entertain generously. See people constantly. On one snowy day I made a red lentil soup that made several people happy, and you can never go wrong in winter with a nice hot curry.
Movies. Why go out, the theory goes, when DVDs and downloads are so easy. In the depths of winter you can explore a theme. I’m thinking great newspaper movies, such as Citizen Kane and All The President’s Men.
Tea. I have a huge stash of tea ready at hand, from black and spicy loose leaf Earl Grey and blackcurrant tea to green tea, chai (Tazo is nice), lemon and Constant Comment, which has orange and spices in it. As the daylight fades, I brew a pot of tea in my white bone china teapot, let it steep, find a cup and saucer, add some milk and pour. Maybe a few biscuits or a bit of cheese and apple. Perfect!
Cashmere. Think thrift shop, vintage stores and consignment shops and you’ll find a cosy cashmere cardigan or pullover for the price of a cotton T-shirt. Cashmere is, although it comes from the belly of Mongolian goats, the workhorse of fabrics. I’m writing this wearing my go-to winter outfit — a calf-length black cashmere T-shirt dress that is so old I can’t remember the year I bought it….1993? A long time ago.
A lovely bit of cashmere, whether socks, a sweater, a scarf, mitts or hat, is light, warm, chic, and will last for decades. What’s not to love?
Plants, everywhere. Just when you think you will never see green again, time to head to your local nursery and pick up a few growing, live plants. Watering and spraying them will remind you that living things still do exist!
Visit a botanical garden. What better place than the fragrant humidity of a glass-enclosed garden? One of my best memories ever was in November in Stockholm, when it was dark by 3:00 pm and the sun did not rise until 8:30 a.m. We visited the Butterfly House — where live butterflies float past and often land on you.
Long walks. The best investment anyone can make when facing a long, snowy, icy winter is a great pair of winter boots, waterproof and warm — and a pair of Yaktrax. These little rubber overshoes with metal claws on the bottom make a long, vigorous walk a serious option without that terrible fear of falling. I’ve used them. They work!
Ice skating/snow-shoeing/skiing/sledding. If you’re stuck with months of ice and snow, best to find some ways to make fun use of it. There are plenty of great places to go skating even in super-urban New York City. One of my favorite things to do is cruise the temporary ice-rink at Bryant Park, open until February 27, which offers fabulous music and the most lovely surroundings — from the glittery curves of the Chrysler Building to the Empire State Building a few blocks south. Soaring around its oval as the sun sets and the towers light up all around you is a wonderful way to end even the coldest and grayest day.