Last February, while temperatures plummeted for days on end, I was out of the country. I remember seeing a headline announcing "Saskatchewan Hasn't Had a February Cold Stretch Like This in 80 Years" while the city of Constanta, Romania, where I spent the month, was experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures. So having missed out on a lot of the deep freeze last year I realize I shouldn't be complaining…so I won't. Or at least I'll try.
My husband and I were on a day-cruise out of San Diego a few years ago when we met two other couples seated at our table for one of the meals. In the course of introductions everyone mentioned where they were from, which prompted comments about the weather associated with each region. The couple from Florida answered questions about a recent hurricane and said that while they escaped damage this time around, they hadn't been quite so fortunate previous years and have had to re-build sections of their property on multiple occasions. The ones from Ohio could commiserate, having experienced the devastation and clean-up that accompanied tornadoes a few different times. But when they found out we were from Canada, and in particular the prairies, they were beside themselves wondering how anyone could live through the cold winters. Personally, with decent resources and good decisions I like our chances against the cold as opposed to tsunamis, volcanoes, fires and typhoons. Others are in situations far worse, yet somehow people feel sorry for us.
A statement by my oldest daughter has me thinking about the cold in a bit different way this year. She lives in a tropical location, having moved there about 14 months ago. In a conversation earlier this winter she was talking about things she missed, and most of it was what one might expect. Then she remarked, "But one of the things I miss most is the feeling of getting warm."
In a climate where the temperature varies little from day to day, she misses coming in from the cold and reaching for comforts like cozy blankets and a mug of hot chocolate and then feeling the chill dissipate to be replaced by warmth.
I never thought of it in those terms before, but since her comment I have been thinking about how we experience temperature. A couple instances stand out for me; like being in the skating shack that stood next to the outdoor rink in the community I lived in as a young child. Friday night skating parties brought everybody out and while I have fun memories of being on the ice, I also remember vividly the crackling fire inside the shack which we would stand around to warm up. Within moments those cold hands, feet and noses felt so much better as we soaked up the heat that was made available to us.
The other instance is one I didn't experience myself, but instead saw the consequences. My younger daughter experienced damaging frostbite on four of her toes during a winter camping trip with her postsecondary school. She received good emergency and follow-up care and we are grateful that healing occurred. But I remember when the dressings were changed and her foot was exposed to the air—room temperature air—the pain she experienced due to how sensitive her toes now were. Once the new dressings were applied her toes felt the warmth of being covered once again. It wasn't a thick covering, but enough to be warm again.
When the temperature begins its descent we need to take steps to provide protection and safety for ourselves—and for others. We need to be generous in donating coats, gloves, scarves and blankets, or offering assistance with a heating bill for someone who may not be able to keep their home warm. Maybe it could be putting extra tins of soup in the Food Bank bin or showing up with a steaming cup of coffee for someone who has to be outside. It doesn't take a lot from any of us to ensure more and more of us experience the feeling of getting warm again. That's my outlook.