Chill Makes Me Smile - 12.27.99

Every year around the end of fall and the beginning of winter, I start to get a little gleam in my eye. It's not because I necessarily enjoy the snow, or even because I'm looking forward to the holidays. Instead, it's some sort of unexplainable combination of the cold air that I know will soon come, the leaves falling off the trees, and the shortened number of hours of light in a day. They're all kind of dreary things when it comes right down to it, but it's that very dreariness that I've come to enjoy and even revel in.

The last thing I want to do is sound like the typical whiner and / or some hopeless goth, but it's completely true. Although I enjoy the warm air of the summer for riding my bicycle and playing the ocassional game of ultimate frisbee, there's something about a stiff cold breeze that goes through my clothing and a sharp bite of frozen precipitation at my skin that makes me feel good.

I think that part of the reasoning behind this is that everything else around me is in fact dying. The grass in everyones yards turns brown, the trees become thin and stark against the sky after losing all their covering, and all the flowers are gone. The insects that plagued me all summer have all long since died and even automobiles rumble their disagreements louder than normal when it gets to the point where the temperature drops below freezing. Not only that, but animals are scarce as well. Unless it's sunny, I rarely see a squirrel or rabbit out, and even if they've grown in their heavy coats, most dogs and cats shudder at the prospects of walking outside in the cold.

When I see these things around me dying and slowing down, it makes me feel even more alive that I'm not only able to continue with my daily activities, but do so without much of a change at all in my daily activities. Sure, I have to get out some different clothes and maybe put an extra blanket on my bed, but my body doesn't really go through any extraordinary changes other than a couple days of getting used to the changing temperatures. It's not like I have to grow an extra layer of skin to keep warm or hibernate during the cold months. Perhaps my facial hair grows back a touch faster, and the hair on my head seems a bit more coarse and dark (retreating after being blasted by the sun for several months), but that's about it.

Perhaps one thing that drives me on even more is a finer point of the above statement. Because everything is dying and slowing down, it seems like something that is just expected for humans as well. The weather is colder outside and the environment makes it harder to do things, but instead of turning toward a more glacial pace, I like to see if I can keep as active as I was during the more agreeable months. It's sort of an unspoken challenge to me from the rest of the world to defy not only its attitudes and examples, but the media that it creates on the subject. There's something very self-satisfying about hearing bunch of people complaining about the weather, then turning your face to greet it full on with a smile.

It's easy to be happy when it's 80 degrees outside and the sun is shining, but it's hard to enjoy it when you forgot to wear that extra layer and the wind chill makes it 10 degrees colder than you had expected. There's something about the raw cold that gives me a rush. Not frost-bite mind you, but a quick rush of cool that chills one to the bone and makes you work a little to warm back up. Like I've always told people, when it's hot, there's nothing you can do with ones body alone to cool off, whereas when it's cold, things are easier to change (you can jog in place or rub your hands together).

One of the other reasons that I enjoy the cold weather goes back to nearly one of the first things that I said in this piece, and it's also probably one of the silliest. While I'm generally an agreeable person, I'm also one who tends to focus much more times on the bad than the good. Not only does cold weather depress a lot of people, but it makes me somewhat sad as well, even though I tend to like it a touch more. The thing that's strange about me, though, (and it has nothing to do with weather) is that a lot of the times I'm actually happier when I'm depressed. It sounds strange, and I've never had any serious problems with it, but it's a strange phenomena indeed.