The Winter Hungers
I feel the bone-shrinking chill radiating through the 104-year-old oak door even before I leave the house. I step onto the porch into the amber halo of light from the bulb that struggles as a 60-watt in a 100-watt world. The glow extends only ten feet or so in either direction, fading to evocative shadows in the corners of the porch.
Academically, 20 below zero is cold and wind-chill makes it colder, bottoming out at around 40 below zero. You can comprehend this, even to some degree prepare for it, but to actually experience it… to feel your skin recoil, even under layers of protection.
It is a kind of madness, being outside when it is this cold. Your mind reels as your external senses beg for mercy—trying to think of anything and everything that isn’t how cold it is and invariably returning to: Why the Hell do I live here?
I brace myself for the full tumult of the wind and push my way through the porch door. The cold slams into me with almost physical force, pushing the held breath from my lungs in an expletive-laden deluge. Once the initial shock passed, I inhaled, feeling the frigid air, almost 140 degrees cooler than my internal body temperature, try to freeze my lungs solid and, much to my irrational relief, failing.