Cold. Cold that bites. Cold that burns. Cold that hurts my teeth, chills my lungs, makes my nose bleed. Cold that flattens autumn’s poppies, cold that kills the farmers’ crops. Cold that swallows the fire-heat from the pellet stove so the house is never really warm. Day after day, so cold I dare not leave my dog outside for fear she will die. At night, Annie sleeps on the big chair by the living room window, waking when the pellet stove comes on, when the temperature has dropped below 55 degrees in the house. I hear her tags jingling as she comes down the hall and places her giant paws on my bed. I pet her soft fur and invite her up, but she can’t quite make the jump and she needs to go out. I indulge her every whim because I have sent her brother away, and the loss is so new to both of us.
In my robe and slippers, I lean against the doorframe as I did so many times for my old dog Sadie. Without my glasses, the lights in the inky sky look like starbursts. As Annie chases something in the dark, I move out into the colder cold. The deck is oddly dry. My feet crunch on the frozen grass and the spongy ground beneath it. Annie squats, then bounds across the lawn and rattles through the leaves piled up against the chain link fence. As I stare at the sky, she comes running toward me, flying across the deck and into the warmth of the house. I slowly follow, locking the doors, wishing my companion good night as I crawl back into bed, grateful for my electric blanket.
The cold, dry spell has lasted five days now. Tomorrow it is expected to turn to freezing rain and snow. I stay up late to watch the weather report, wondering if I can still drive to Albany to see my husband Fred in his nursing home. The reporter urges drivers to pack chains, flashlights, shovels, kitty litter, blankets and food. Snow is a worry, but the real enemy is the ice that may lie beneath it. Nothing is expected to fall until tomorrow night. Do I trust their schedule?
Meanwhile, I envy my father’s high of 54 degrees back in California, even if it is raining there. Our 30 degrees, up from 21 two night ago, is the warmest on the Oregon weather map. Being Oregonians, we are supposed to cheerfully endure the winter weather, but this California native has decided her idea of hell is cold.