I notice that almost exactly one year ago I had a similar urge to post about how miserable winter had become. Well, it just got miserabler.
It started OK. We’ve had a snowier January than I can remember in many years. Which makes the several days of bitter cold at least aesthetically pleasing.
“Daddy, my eyelids are frozen shut.”
“I know, son, but if you could open them you’d find the streetscape very beautiful.”
The other upside of this dose of winter is learning the seemingly endless forms that water can take. Snow, ice, liquid, of course. Add to that list the intermediate states of sleet, slush, sneet, and snush. (Can’t forget thundersnow either.)
This morning as I went for a run I witnessed — indeed experienced — the most diabolical form yet. It only occurs when the thermometer is all over the place, warm enough for liquid water to stick around close to the ground yet cold enough for the water to freeze when exposed to the air.
What happens on the sidewalks is that certain squares of concrete that are askew and lower than grade fill with near-freezing water. A very thin layer of ice non-uniformly covers this water and looks distressingly like the textured surface of the sidewalk itself. So you never quite know if what you are about to step in is solid or liquid and (here’s the kicker) how deep it all is. To make it a real gauntlet-run the edges of the sidewalk are piled high with snow. So you get shoes soaken with water that is trying desperately to become ice. And a bonus: windblown ice pellets that impact the face like a fragmenting comet hitting the moon.
The ultimate indignity comes only on the coldest runs though. I wear a little hat with ear flaps that fasten under my chin. Even on subzero days one sweats when running and the sweat from my head channels down the flap-straps ending at the fastener. Slowly this saline sweat freezes and, as more and more pours off my head, a little icicle comes to form. By the end of, say, a six mile run I have an icicle several inches long swinging from side to side from my chin. Quite comical, a cross between Frosty the Snowman and Fu Manchu.
Did I mention we’re expecting the heaviest snowfall today in nine years?