It’s been an unusually mild winter here in Massachusetts—not counting the freak snow storm we had back in October that damaged so many trees and knocked out power for days throughout the Northeast.
In fact, we’ve had a whole lot of weird weather this year—including a tornado, an earthquake and a hurricane-turned-tropical-storm. Anyone who doesn’t think there’s something strange and disturbing happening to the climate is either in deep denial or a Republican presidential candidate. But I digress.
Now it’s finally getting cold. We had about an inch of snow late last week and another four over the weekend. Temperatures are well below freezing at night and pretty brisk during the day. And I’m beginning to want to hibernate.
Going outside in New England winters is always an expedition for me. I need to bundle up big time to keep my Raynaud’s in check.
Every day I put on my leg warmers and wrist warmers and sweaters and fleece vest and whatever other layers I need to stay warm in the house, plus all the external layers when I venture outside. I end up looking like an eskimo half the time that other people are sporting mid-weight coats or jackets. I used to feel ridiculous, but now I don’t care what anyone thinks. It’s just what I have to do.
And all those layers can have unanticipated benefits. Last Friday afternoon, I had finished my work for clients and was wrapping up a first draft of this post when our 13-year-old golden, Ginger, insisted on nose-batting my hand away from the keyboard to tell me it was time to go for a walk. Since I’d been writing about contending with the cold, I decided she was right.
So I put on my deep-tread walking shoes, my warmest down coat, my shearling hat and my down mittens, and we headed outside. As we walked along our snow-packed street, a dozen high school girls from the nearby prep school jogged past, clad in thin black leggings and ski jackets, ponytails bobbing.
I pulled up my hood against the wind. Warmer now, I didn’t mind Ginger pausing to inspect each lamp pole on our leisurely trek around the block. As we rounded the corner back toward our house, we stopped to let the runners jog by again. A straggler ran past. Farther down the block, another labored to catch up.
Then Ginger skidded on some ice. My feet flew out from under me and I fell flat on my back, banging my left elbow and whacking the back of my head on the icy road.
The second straggler ran over and offered me a hand. I thanked her, got up on my own and walked, shaken, with Ginger back home. Nearly thirty hours later, I’m feeling mostly back to normal, no longer spacey, no more mild headache, just some strained muscles. And I’m sure I was spared a concussion by my thick hat and down hood. Not even a bruise on my elbow, thanks to all the padding.
One of my rheumatologists always used to ask me, only half-joking, why I wouldn’t move to San Diego. I’d quip that I wouldn’t be able to stand the air conditioning. After this weekend, and whenever I feel stuck in a January deep-freeze, I’ll admit the idea has some appeal. But.
This is my home. It’s been my home for more than 30 years, now. Yes, it gets too cold. But I have dear friends here, Al’s family within a hour’s drive and a tight-knit synagogue community. I have an outstanding team of physicians who know me and my history really, really well. I love the scenery and four seasons, even the snow. I love my home. Our daughters grew up here. My parents and Al’s parents are buried here. We have roots.
All of that is very hard to replace. And the stress of adjusting to a new community, the amount of time and effort involved in building new relationships, aren’t worth a warmer climate (especially given all the extreme weather of late—for all I know, if the oceans do rise, we may end up with beachfront property someday here in Central Massachusetts).
So, for now, I’ll continue to stay put. And buy a pair of ice cleats.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.