Now that winter is over (ish, sorry if it starts snowing today and I jinxed it), I decided I want to think about the cold. One of the most extreme things about living in Alaska is obviously the winters. Not only can temperatures dip below -50 Fahrenheit, but there is also the matter of darkness. On the darkest of days there is daylight for around 3.5 hours, but it’s hardly what we might call daylight. Rather, the sun hovers on the horizon in a nearly constant state of dusk.
Safe to say, I was very scared of this weather before we moved. I have never been someone who loves winter and I always feel more like myself in warm and sunny weather. In Chicago I would constantly whine about the cold and send pouty snapchats with the temperature filter on to garner sympathy. (Now I laugh at myself. I complained at single digit temperatures. Ridiculous.)
There is a poem by a modern day spoken word poet named Sarah Kay titled “If I Ever Have a Daughter” that went viral a few years ago from a Ted Talk. The poem is average, a little cheesy for me, but there’s a line in it that says, “sometimes getting the breath knocked out of you is the only way to reminds your lungs how much they like the taste of air”. That line is the best way I can describe what it feels like to be outside when it’s -30 (or more). Your eyes suddenly feel dry, the air is sharp and cold, and it’s a physical shock to the system. And you remember how much you like not feeling like that.
But it also completely grabs your attention, and that’s something I like about the cold. It is like the irritating person who you can’t help but pay attention to because they demand your ear saying, “listen to me right now, I have something to tell you.” And so I started to listen to the cold, and a funny thing began to happen. I learned from something I didn’t really want to learn from.
One beautiful thing about winter in Alaska is that there is hardly any wind. Unlike Chicago where the wind and lake effect in certain areas can feel like a million small icy knives stabbing you at all times, the cold here is more still. It honestly does not feel that bad. The cold and stillness combined create a really peaceful effect. At times in winter when it was light out and I was outside, I felt like I was disturbing something. The nature was so still and quiet, I felt that surely my presence was ruining something beautiful. Every branch on every tree was completely still and completely covered perfectly in snow and it was lovely. I don’t even like winter and it took my breath away. Beauty lies even in things that we may have despised our whole lives. (This is also a miracle because I am not an outdoorsy person. Until now my favorite part of being outside is either 1) the beach or 2) dinner al fresco. I would never describe myself as adventurous in any way.)
Cold is neither good nor bad – it’s cold. Sometimes it feels awful and horrible and I want it to leave. It’s draining and exhausting and I don’t want to go through the immense effort necessary to sustain life in this cold. (For example: plug in my car, worry that it won’t start, try to push a grocery cart across a parking lot completely covered in inches of ice that won’t budge, wear snow boots exclusively for 3+ months straight). But I was shocked to see that there were things I liked about the winter here, and I am grateful for that.
After people ask about the cold and I tell them about it, oftentimes people respond to me with, “I could never do that,” and a shake of their heads. But here today, I would like to tell you that you could. You absolutely could. I am honestly the last person on earth I thought could remotely like cold. And I don’t love it. But there are good things about it. God in his goodness does not ever place us anywhere that he is not and he teaches us through it all. So cold, I learn from you. (And I am happy that you are gone for a while.)