My father liked to watch the weather. Please don’t mistake this beloved habit of his with watching the weather”man”, or as he or she prefers to be called, the meteorologist. You know, the chap on television news who tries with utmost conviction and gravity of expression to convince his audience that any rainstorm just might hide a hurricane and dark skies could portend the apocalypse easy as not. No my Father had little confidence in these learned souls. He simply walked outside and studied the clouds.
“Those are snow clouds", he’d tell me as my eyes followed his pointing finger up to a glowing grey sky full of ponderous clouds that seemed to be concealing something, as though crowds of performers were silently gathering behind the folds of silver theatre curtains waiting only until their numbers were such that they pushed through, rushing out to fall on the stage of the world. Droughts worried him, wind fascinated him, and he simply loved the cold. I can see him in the favourite soft grey coat he always wore when I was little, a coat too heavy for cool weather, a coat only pulled out when the conditions turned arctic. He’d stamp his feet, clap his hands together, as he made his way outside in the cold, returning red-cheeked and happy.
Such is the mystery of inheritance, I suppose, because I cannot deny, even as I pile on another knitted shawl and one more pair of socks, that my heart skips a beat whenever polar air pierces the Mason-Dixon line to visit the South. It’s a rare thing, after all. We Southerners could fairly be described as having a rather hysterical reaction to any forecast of authentic winter weather. Schools close right down, for days, at the merest dusting of snow. The most microscopic measurement of ice on the roads completely erases any ability we may possess to safely operate an automobile, and before the weather hits we all head to the market, en masse, to strip the shelves of those things we feel we cannot successfully exist without. We put on quite an entertaining show.
So naturally, yesterday when the meteorologists trumpeted our forecast of “the Coldest Weather in Over a Decade”, we joined our friends and neighbours at the market for our own “essentials”. The Songwriter gathered the ingredients for his famous chili. I scampered up and down the aisles pulling down clove-scented bubble bath, tangerine tea, bouquets of fresh roses, Gruyere cheese, and apple-flavoured dog bones.
Essentials, don’t you know.
We arrived home just as the first pinpricks of sleet were pinging the pavement. I wound the most delicious lavender wool into balls for a new sweater. The Songwriter stacked firewood. Edward and Apple curled up in favourite chairs. Extra quilts were put on the bed and hot water bottles were filled and buttoned up tightly in their cashmere covers. And then, we waited. Waited for the needles of glassy sleet to rattle and tingle at our windowpanes. Waited for the polar wind to sing its high-pitched songs round the eaves of our bedroom. Edward sighed. We heard the owls call out in the darkness.
Perhaps a long walk tomorrow?
I do have my Father’s old grey coat, after all.
Is it winter where you are?