Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Cold?
It was two degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-18 C) on Bruce’s thermometer this morning. The probe on the front porch registered three minus signs until it reached minus one degree Fahrenheit later in the morning. Birds flocked to the feeder area as I made breakfast. Then thump. Something had hit the bow window hard. A Cooper’s hawk sat below the window and took off as soon as I looked out. All the little birds had fled.
Many schools were cancelled including Tyrone. I couldn’t believe it. In Maine, at 40 below, I removed the heater from the car engine, bundled baby Mark in layers of clothes, and took Steve to first grade and Dave to nursery school in our Volkswagen bus that never warmed up above zero during our half hour ride. No one ever talked of calling school because of the cold.
And here, one year when Bruce was off to a conference in January and the boys had to get to school on their own, I walked them the two miles down to town at zero degrees, we stopped at a restaurant and they had hot chocolate to warm up, and then they walked on to school while I walked home. I remember the hoarfrost clinging to the trees beside the river and forming on my hair. In those days, Tyrone didn’t cancel school because of the cold. No wonder kids stay indoors like their parents, mesmerized by technology and getting fatter day by day. The outdoors has become something to fear.
Yesterday, it was almost as cold, but the Pittsburgh-based environmental/nature show Allegheny Front, carried on WPSU-FM, devoted most of its half hour program to winter sports–cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating–and mentioned that many people get depressed in winter because they stay indoors.
“Get outside. Enjoy the beautiful weather, the tranquility of the forest, etc.” was the essence of their message. But during station breaks, the local announcer kept warning that there was a cold weather alert until 11:00 a.m. Tuesday because of the cold and wind chill! The Allegheny Front folks intoned, “It’s not the weather; it’s wearing the proper clothes,” or something like that. Then, another station break and more warnings. What a disconnect!
I waited until 10:00 a.m. to go out this morning. By then it was two above and windy, but it was lovely walking across First Field to Margaret’s Woods where a song sparrow flew up, and on down Ten Springs Trail where a titmouse foraged on a patch of open ground on the bank.
I sat on the snow, my hot seat beneath me, along Pit Mound Trail to write notes, where I was protected by the wind and the sun shone brightly. Then on down the road, silent except for chickadees feeding on hemlock cones. Under the hemlocks, the stream was frozen. Even the chute was a thick sheet of ice. But at the big pulloff, the stream ran freely. A regular parade of deer tracks headed down for water. The hollow itself gave me a quiet interlude despite the wind that rustled the trees overhead and grew more insistent the farther up the road I walked.
Throughout the day, at the feeder area, I counted 14 bird species altogether including 35 juncos, two goldfinches, 22 mourning doves, two song sparrows, three tree sparrows and a singing house finch. But I heard no Carolina wren song. Could this cold have killed them?
© 2007 Marcia Bonta