Saturday, May 16, 2020

Fifty Degrees Below Zero

After I wrote my 'I hate spring and summer' poem the other day, I was thinking of another I wrote about 16 years go when we lived in North Pole, Alaska. It's at the opposite end of the seasonal spectrum and was written before I experienced any sort of environmental allergies--those didn't begin until we left Alaska and went back to the Lower 48. Autumn and winter were still my favourite seasons, but I did not dislike summer as much as I do now. Summers were short and even the 24 hours of daylight didn't bother me. Still, I loved the winter days when we had about 3 hours of weak daylight and I loved the crisp, cold air. Winter lasted from late September or early October until April-ish when break-up started. Everyone prepared for winter and was used to very cold temperatures. Schoolchildren would go outside for recess unless it was colder than -20(F). We knew to expect some seriously cold weather (-40F) for a stretch in January. One year, our cold snap dipped down to -50 or so for a time. When it broke, it went quickly and in a matter of hours, it was -10 and then 0. Bill and I were outside at midnight shovelling snow in T-shirts. By the tail end of every winter, 0 felt quite warm. My decade in Alaska my be one reason why I have so little tolerance for heat now. I start to get grumpy when it's in the 50s and 60 is too hot for me. I sometimes miss the cold, but when I feel nostalgia for those days, I remember that living in that kind of cold requires a lot of thought, care, nd preparation, and that it can wear one down after a while.This is especially true when one is living without running water as we were and has to haul it. Turns out that 5-and 7-gallon jugs of water are heavy to carry and very, very cold in winter! We had a septic tank, so unlike many others there did not have to dash to an out house, which I was very grateful for! Of course, with the climate emergency, those cold days may soon be gone forever. Anyway, here's the poem I wrote one day when even I was tired of the cold! I'd forgotten what that felt like. 😉

50 Degrees Below Zero

The brownish haze hangs heavy
like a veil in the sky,
a blanket of car exhaust and wood smoke
at fifty degrees below zero.

I take a deep breath
and feel shards of air
scraping my skin
and tumbling into my lungs.

Too cold outside even for the frost
which creeps into the house,
spreading around doorknobs
and growing up windows.

The cold seems to stretch to forever
as I begin to wonder
if it will ever be warm enough
for me to see clearly again.

January 19, 2004


Lowcarb team member said...

Goodness ...and I moan at Zero degrees!

So interesting to read about your time in Alaska, and I enjoyed your poem.

All the best Jan

Vicki said...

-50 is very cold, but I can take the cold more than I can the heat and humidity. I've always wanted to visit Alaska. My mom and dad vacationed there sometimes and loved it. They've been to North Pole a few times.

Your poem is very good, I enjoyed reading it.

JFM/Jan said...

You and Bill have had wonderful places to live and beautiful Ireland would probably my favorite.
Your poem says it all and is perfect.
I so enjoy reading your poetry and I hope that you will share more with us.

Stay Safe ☕

Shari Burke said...
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Shari Burke said...

Thank you, Vicki, Jan and Jan :-)

Moaning's OK--I moan when it gets to the mid-high teens (C) when the sun is out!

I'm with you, Vicki--much prefer cold to heat and humidity. Fairbanks/North Pole were quite dry, so it was very dry cold and the snow would sparkle.

I do miss Alaska at times, Jan, but Ireland is definitely the best place I've ever lived :-)