Apparently, Chicago is Siberia. Or so I hear from a friend who has recently relocated from the East Coast to Chitown. She thinks she has moved to the arctic hinterlands. This makes me laugh.
See, I’m a native Midwesterner, a Chicagoan now living in Wisconsin. To me, there’s no day more beautiful than a January morning, sky blazing blue, perfect poofs of white clouds dotting it (and coming not from natural precipitation but from heaters, cars, mouths), and air so freaking cold that it simply hurts to be alive. I admit: I’m not always the best winter dweller, and I insist on jacking the heat to a level that makes everyone else sweat (while I’m still wearing my wool cap, indoors), but still. Siberia? It’s not that bad. Maybe, though, I’m just inured to it. It’s all just part of the routine. Plus, I’ve developed some handy skills as a result.
I can tell the weather–windchill included–with my body
This morning, walking to my 8am yoga class, I got a brain freeze. Most probably associate this sensation with the rapid consumption of ice cream or slushies. Your brain (and sometimes your neck, your back, and your upper chest) ache from a sudden burst of frozen-ness. You might even get an uncontrollable shudder running from the top of your head, through your shoulders, down to your tailbone. Well, I got a brain freeze this morning, and there was no ice cream involved. Nope. Just breathing in the brisk morning air. Definitely a below zero windchill.
Or the other day, as Fresh and I walked from the Memorial Union to our offices, we made a bet about the weather. Silly Fresh–he tried to tell the temperature by paying attention to the environment. Slight cloud cover, indicating a warmish day; the trees were pretty still, indicating only a moderate windchill. He guessed 15–this looked like it was shaping up to be a warm January morning! Me, I just noticed that with every inhale, my nose froze on itself, then opened back up on the exhale. This was snot-freezing weather. Definitely near zero. And what do you know: It was seven, with a windchill of -1. But you can’t blame Fresh…he grew up in Cincinnati, which is downright balmy in the winter.
Then there’s the hair-freezing weather. If you forget to blow dry before you leave the house, your hair will chunk into soft-ish icicles that disappear as soon as you go inside. Usually 20 to 30 degrees on those mornings.
Clothes are also a great meteorological resource. As a kid, if I could go outside in shorts and still feel my legs–despite the goose bumps and sickening blue color they were turning–it was around 40. That’s spring! Or if I could go outside with my winter jacket open, no scarf, no hat–around 30. Or these days: If my fingers are numb inside my regular REI gloves but sweaty inside my jumbo Solomon outdoorsman gloves, it’s around -10. And if I can go outside in my multilayered, polartec, wind- and water-proof Marmot fleece/shell duo without shivering uncontrollably, definitely above fifteen. If I can wear the down, knee-length stadium jacket comfortably–not too hot, not too cold– it’s somewhere between -20 and 15. And if even the down sheath leaves me chilly, well, it’s one of those really cold days. You know–those insanely cold Midwestern days you’ve been hearing about on the news, -40 with windchill. Yep. If even the down sheath won’t cut it, it’s one of those. If the only thing that will warm you up is a quick shot of whiskey, at breakfast, it’s one of those days.
And while I might be able to predict the temperature with accuracy using my body on any other day, if somebody asks about the weather on one of these days, my response is simple: “Really f’ing cold.”
While living in Mexico, I joked that speaking Spanish forced me to be far more Zen about life: Since I could only speak in the present tense, I was forced to just live in that present tense.
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