Thursday, February 02, 2006

Feeling Cold

(Special thanks to Michaël for his excellent images of Amsterdam's frozen fog)

Sub-zero temperatures feel much harsher when one rides bare-faced through a frozen fog, at the 25 kilometers-per-hour clip of a bicycle. The landscape is transformed into something hushed, tremulous, mystical -- perhaps even beautiful -- yet my ears sting, my chin numbs, and my fingers chafe in the damp chill of the Dutch winter. It's cold outside. It's really cold outside. I mean, it's really, very cold outside. Like an angry girlfriend, the wintry world has turned frozen, unresponsive, curt. I feel the brutality of her cold shoulder in more ways than one. She won't talk, and she won't return my calls any more.

What's odd is that I experienced much colder temperatures in the days of my Midwestern American youth. The Great Lakes region from which I originate regularly received vast quantities of winter precipitation, and as a boy I was well-accustomed to snowsuits, and snowforts, and snowdays. My son finds "smoking" in the brisk winter air to be a fun novelty, while I intuitively understood the billowy condensation of warm carbon dioxide to be the norm while breathing and growing up in Wisconsin winters.

But the difference here in Holland is that I'm more exposed. Snow and freezing temperatures may be less common here in the Atlantic climate of northwestern Europe, and the extremes are muted... Yet the chill is powerful and pervasive because it cannot be avoided. Drafty old buildings allow exposure to the elements even from within the "sheltered" places. A choice between a bitterly cold bicycle ride or a bitterly cold wait at the tram stop leave me wishing for my heated automobile and two-car garage. And the damp, diligent dreariness of Holland februari's feels somehow heavier than the brilliant, brisk "brrrr" of Ohio Februaries.

Yet I do not despair. I will my numbed fingers to grip tightly to my only tool for survival: patience. One day, the fog will lift. The earth will thaw. And my girl, my spring, will warm me once again with her embrace -- as if for the first time.


At 2:27 PM, Blogger Michaël said...

Thanks Eric for the compliment and the catching story you wrote with the picture.

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, the temperature in Ohio hasn't been below 21 degrees since December 24. Today it is in the 40's and raining! Oof da!

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Jay said...

Do you find it tough to relish your new climate? I find that a winter with no snow somehow drains a part of me. I'm trying to be more joyful about the benefits of Texas winters, but muted seasons make me feel like I've lost my calendar, my range of emotions, and a subtler, small part of me.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

You're exactly right, Jay, about the muted seasons leading to a muted sense of myself. As crazy as it sounds, there's something to be said for blizzards and heat waves...


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