the big chill

LET THE RECORD SHOW that by the end of my first October in Colorado I was ready for summer again.

I don’t know what happened. One minute I was comfortable out-of-doors, and the next I was wincing and bracing. I have this thing I do, this mincing shuffle I adopt when it’s cold outside, because I don’t want my pants touching my legs. The unfortunate thing is that pants are always touching your legs, even if you are standing very still, in which case your odds of reaching the warmth of indoors are acutely slim.

Why is it so cold? Why am I so cold? My enfeebled brain can’t wrap its neurons around it. Is this how seasons actually work? I was in coastal California so long that I forgot. I thought there was going to be four of them, four seasons. Four seasons is what they listed in the brochure. But based on my rudimentary measurements it appears that there are merely two, hot and cold, with two-week transition periods in between.

Okay okay okay hackneyed remarks about the weather aside, I knew, logically, that moving to Colorado would mean colder climes. What I wasn’t quite prepared for was the drastic daily temperature swing, especially in the waning months. The sun here is intense, because — dig this — we are physically closer to it. When acquaintances ask where I’m living now, I answer that I’m living ONE MILE CLOSER TO THE SUN. And, as Coloradans cherish reminding everyone, the sun is out a lot.

Official state tourism motto: “We get 397 days of sunshine every year!”

Contrary to appearances, the sun, uh, came out later that day.

What this means is that now, in addition to feeling uncomfortably cold for a sizable portion of my day, I must also be prepared to feel warm. Yes, every place has some variation of the “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes har har HAR” trope. But this is the first place I’ve lived where in the morning I need to pile on a coat, hat, gloves, boots, and a thick veneer of stoicism, and by the apex of the afternoon I’m tearing off my scarf and sprinting across the lawn, shrieking, in shirtsleeves and slip-on shoes. But don’t put that coat away just yet — as the sun starts to dip the land is transformed into frozen tundra once more.

So that’s been interesting.

It’s nice to have reliable sunshine. This is a marked change from my time spent in Michigan, where winter was essentially six months of grey skies. It was like living in the Pacific northwest, only featuring more brown and snow and vowel shifts. But sometimes one can have a little too much of a good thing, yes? And here I’ve found that, winter or summer, I can manage to be outside for two hours tops. 30 minutes if I’m drinking. Here that old soul-warming orb is like a laser that sears you from the inside out. It doesn’t matter how much water I’ve chugged. Once I’ve had Too Much Sun it takes me a full day to recover.

Hats! Sleeves! I have never been a hat and sleeve person but I’m looking into becoming one. I hope the membership fees aren’t too high. It’s probably extra for the parasol.

It’s always extra for the parasol.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First I have to navigate the next sixth months, which my brochure tells me are only going to get colder. The forecast for early next week is a low of 18° Fahrenheit. Barely November and already 18°! That’s about as obnoxiously premature as going to Home Depot on Halloween and finding the whole store decked out in Christmas cheer, which is a real thing that really happened. So I set the store on fire. Kidding! I think. I don’t remember last night very clearly because it was very blustery and was mostly concentrating on how to get back to the car without my legs touching my pants.

The next half of the year is going to be a long one, guys. :(


9 Responses to “the big chill”

  1. Hello! Midwestern cold-weather apologist here, to tell you why it’s going to be okay.

    Because this day is going to come, this Saturday morning when you wake up to still, ear-splitting silence caused by six feet of snow on top of everything. When you have nothing to do that day but shuffle from bed to the kitchen in your wool socks and your husband’s favorite sweater to turn on the coffee and throw a pork loin in the slow-cooker. When there’s college football/hockey/olympics on TV, a good book and a bathtub nearby and no way in hell you can keep any boring plans or work on any boring house projects.When stomping 5 blocks to the nearest shitty bar feels adventurous, and everyone else there suddenly seem rugged and dedicated and awesome and alive. When there’s candles and twinkle lights and weird, adorable animal footprints in the snow.

    I’m telling you, there’s positives to this cold thing. Everything will seem better once you get the appropriate clothes. Get some leggings or tights on under your pants, some smartwool socks, mittens and an an ushanka hat, then get back to us.

  2. Okay, so, we live in a very weird temperature zone. So I know what you mean about the cold mornings and the 70 degrees by lunchtime (which is what happened yesterday. Then it rained.) So here are my recommendations:
    1.) Fleece lined tights or leggings. Or long underwear generally. Having warm fuzzy on your legs makes it so much less painful when your pants hit it. Nothing is worse than suit pants with their f*cking cold polyester liners hitting your legs, so I bought a bunch of long underwear last winter. I bought a great pair of merino wool long underwear at Costco recently and I’m probably going to get a second. But I love my fleece lined tights for under jeans when it’s really really cold out. If it gets super-hot, I just take them off.
    2.) Scaaaaarves. I am all about scarves for middle of the road temperatures. A fleece and a scarf can keep me really warm, and when it gets hot, I unzip the fleece and ball up the scarf and put it in my pocket. Even lightweight but voluminous scarves help protect your skin from the elements without adding a ton of weight.
    3.) Fuzzy boots. You don’t have to have uggs, but the ugg mini shorts were great for mid-season for me because I could wear them just a bit longer than I could have worn full height ones. I’m on the hunt for fuzzy shoes/clogs for this winter, or some fleece lined flats.

    I wear a baseball cap when I run and it helps a lot with taking in too much sun and also I don’t sunburn my scalp.

    • ELLIE! These are great tips. I was at Costco last night and now I’m kicking myself for not looking at the clothing section. I’ve always kind of ignored it but it sounds like there are some really useful things here.

  3. Nick and I both have a pair of knit hippie mukluks (the sort of thing you’d find on like some insufferable fair trade handmade goods rack at Whole Foods) and we wear them in the house all winter long.

    I could toootally get used to living somewhere with a milder winter/without a winter but there is indeed something to be said for waking up to a silencing snowfall and having the trek to the grocery store or neighborhood bar be a Grand Adventure! And I would take sunshine and 10F over the very Ohioan 35F gray rain any day.

    Seriously though, winter lasts forever. Not to be a dick. But, like, it will never be warm again.

  4. I love the cold, but I’m only good at underestimating it. You can beat, it Lyn! I believe in you!

  5. First, thank you for confirming that Colorado is a place where the “wait five minutes” weather joke actually applies. I think it’s the dry air. The night cools it down so much, but then the sun warms it back up rapidly. And yeah, there is a lot of sun.

    I know I keep saying this, but this has apparently been a brutal year for CO weather. I second Kerry’s endorsement of smartwool socks. Also, get a snow brush to keep in your car, if you haven’t already, and a heavy shovel for your sidewalk and to break up any ice chunks that may or may not get shoveled underneath your car by passing snowplows. (How are your cars btw? Any improvement on the automotive-repairs front?)

  6. The second to last sentence cracked me up.

    Yeah….6 months of winter stinks. We get that up here in Quebec. On the really cold cold days (-25C or colder) I guess wear an outfit with leggings and thrown on my ski bibs overtop. That works well. And it’s true…on those super cold days, there is a sort of sense of solidarity with all other people also out walking around in the cold/snow with frozen ice on their eyelashes.

    And mittens. I bought some good ski mittens that I wear all winter. They are amazing. And good boots. I have had these through a few years in Chicago and 4 years in Quebec. I LOVE them. LOVE. They make winter bearable for me.

    Good luck in the transition season. It’s frustrating to be back and forth to such extremes in temperature…

  7. And YaxTrax if you are walking on ice. These boots in the link above have grooves that are made to accomodate YaxTrax.

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