It is Sunday, February 14th, 2016. Mark usually gets up earlier than me and therefore takes the dogs out. Today, I jump out of bed as well, to join him. Not because it is Valentine’s Day, we don’t really care about commercialized holidays, but because I am curious about something I have never experienced before. The media have been hyping it up and we have been keeping an eye on it as well: today is by far the coldest day in decades, and certainly in my whole life… The lowest temperature was scheduled at 6am. Mark and I joked about it last night, but refused to leave our warm bed this early for the sake of possibly freezing. It is 8am now and, based on our weather information, it is still pretty darn cold outside: -12°F with a wind chill of -34°F (-24°C with a wind chill of -37°C)!!!
“Are you ready?” Mark asks, while the dogs are wagging their tales and I finish putting my winter coat, wool hat and walking shoes on. Mark wears our one set of winter gloves. My warm pockets do the trick of protecting my hands.
“Sure,” I say. I’m always ready for a new and exciting experience.
The front door opens. Mickey and Henry jump around in joy because we are both joining them outside, and run off to the bushes. A blast of deep freezer cold engulfs our bodies. It feels as if I am not wearing my corduroy pants at all. The icy air grabs on to my legs and doesn’t let go. Our breath looks like the steam of a train engine. Briskly, we walk down the driveway. The snow crunches under our boots. The dry trees moan and groan in the arctic wind. The whole world around us is frozen. My camera has a hard time taking a photo. My hands turn stiff and swiftly return to my pockets.
We keep up with the dogs’ pace and hope they get to business soon. When we reach the road, I suggest we walk towards the dead-end as always. I immediately take it back, though, as I realize the walk back up the driveway is against the crazy cold wind and our body heat is burning up fast. Mark has already turned around. No way is he walking any further, either. The dogs lead the way and are more than ready to head back inside the warm house.
When we approach the top of the driveway again, we are out of breath. There is less moisture in the air than last night. During our quick icy cold outing with the dogs then, it felt as if it was slightly snowing, even though the sky was clear. The littlest particles of water in the evening air had frozen then and there, creating this weird phenomenon! It felt as if microscopic pieces of frozen mist were brushing against our faces. Now, the air is crisp and unbelievably cold. My cheeks are numb, my nose feels gone, the liquid in my eyes is frozen and so are strands of my hair, my face is in pain. We were barely outside for five minutes…
“These are Alaska temperatures,” Mark notes. “No way, people can live in this every day,” I object. Once undressed and back inside our heated cocoon, we check the weather in Anchorage, AK. It is 40°F (23°C) warmer there!
“Let’s spend next winter in Alaska and see the northern lights,” I suggest.
Mark wants nothing to do with it. “Let’s try and get through these cold days first,” are his wise words.
Being in the western world, surviving one frigid day is not too hard. We spend this Sunday surrounded by our borrowed pets, and eat blueberry pancakes for breakfast, homemade banana bread and oatmeal cookies accompanied by hot fruit tea for lunch, and munch on nachos for dinner. It might not be a healthy or romantic Valentine by a wood burning fireplace, but it is certainly a tasty, comfortable and cozy one on the couch with loved ones.