Bitter, Inimical, Implacable Cold



Cold is an absence, an absence of heat, and yet it feels like a presence–a vigorous, hostilely active presence in the air that presses upon your naked face and that makes your fingers and toes ache within their mittens and boots.  Cold is always working, it seems– busy freezing water in the ponds and rivers, knitting intricate six-sided snowflakes by the billions, finding cracks around the walls and windows of your house, forcing furnaces in the cellar to roar away.

I like winter because it locks me indoors with my books, my word processor, and my clear and brittle thoughts. There is a visual poetry that goes with the cold.  Ferns and stars of frost mysteriously appear on the windows and take their place in a child’s mythology.

The cold has the philosophical value of reminding men that the universe does not love us…cold is our ancient companion.   To return back indoors after exposure to the bitter, inimical, implacable cold is to experience gratitude for the shelters of civilization, for the islands of warmth that life creates.
~John Updike from “The Cold”

Today, a goodly portion of the eastern seaboard of the United States is bracing for a mammoth blizzard immobilizing travelers and rendering folks home-bound. Meanwhile, here in the Pacific Northwest, our temperature reached an unseasonably balmy 60 degrees yesterday.

Even in our relative warmth here, we’ve already endured our string of sub-freezing temperature nights and days with crystal clear skies once the frozen fog abates.  Several feet of snow are back on our summer drought-bared hills and mountains.  During our cold snaps, everything shimmers with diamonds of frosty glitter all day long.  It is the kind of cold this Pacific Northwest native can actually enjoy.  It is not the cold of the midwest plains, or the Alaskan frontier.  This is civilized, “kill the bugs and the allergens” cold that helps balance out the ecosystem as well as our internal thermostats.  It is just not natural or seemly to live at 70 degrees year round, toasted by the stove in the winter, soothed by conditioned air in the summer.

We are not always so lucky here.  The cold that sometimes descends in northeast winds from the Arctic can blast through the strongest Carhartt clothing, sneak through drafty doors and windows, and freeze pipes not left dripping.  It leaves no one untouched and unbitten with universal freezer burn.

Bitter cold or a heavy snow storm ensures even independent fair-weather individualists must become companionable when the going gets rugged, mandating shelter with others for survival.  It can even mean forced companionship with those we ordinarily avoid, with whom we have little in common, with whom we disagree and even quarrel, with whom sharing a hug or snuggling for warmth would be unimaginable.

Our whole nation is in just such a bitter, inimical, implacable political cold snap today, terribly divided as we suffer through one of the most hostile and regrettable presidential election cycles in memory.

If we don’t come in out of the societal deep freeze that is afflicting us all, we each will perish alone.   It is time to be thankful we have each other, such as we are.  At least we can generate heat, even if we can’t manage to lighten up.



7 thoughts on “Bitter, Inimical, Implacable Cold

  1. Agree on today’s observations! And love that picture of the ice sculpture done by nature alone…. thank you for your posts!


  2. I lived in Tacoma, Washington for 5 years and LOVED it up there, so I know what you mean with their winters! What a great picture words used to describe the political climate right now! I don’t even watch it on TV anymore because it’s so discouraging!! I should be on my knees more about this mess, that will help me and my country!! Thanks for your encouraging words…Diana


  3. Thank you, Emily (Dr. Emily),

    You have correctly diagnosed our country’s political cold snap as one of the frightening symptoms that describe our society’s malaise today. This, and other destructive ills have permeated our nation’s soul for decades now. We witness the current presidential contenders of both parties parade their venality, racism, hatred and outright contempt for their fellow citizens as they discuss ‘their’ ideas of what must be done to reverse the present trend(s) and lead our nation back to what it once was: a beacon of freedom and civility and, in most instances, recognition of and provision for those who are unable to care for themselves through no fault of their own.

    We, the electorate, have allowed this abomination to continue unabated. We do not vote.
    We have failed to utilize our citizens’ responsibilities because we have lost interest; we are
    too busy to care. Instead, we allow paid lobbyists and special interest groups to decide how and by whom our country will be governed and how and for whom our tax dollars will be spent.

    We give silent assent by our abetting the use of our tax dollars to bring death and destruction to countries with whom we have no legitimate problem by interfering in their governance, their way of life – misappropriating through outright theft and other means their natural resources. Through the use of deception and never before seen killing machines, we have unilaterally become hegemonists. All this evil as our once-great country disintegrates before our eyes.

    We have never ceased being a ‘melting pot.’ In many ways that has been one of our strongest and most lasting strengths. Now we have become a laughing stock because the world sees heretical, evil, inept manipulators through their media and judges our whole nation accordingly.

    What we will reap in the end will be the destruction of America with no future for our children and grandchildren.



  4. All of the politicians should read Ben Carson’s, One Nation.

    The wind howls and the snow swirls here in Pennsylvania.
    It will be a long day and then will come the clean-up.
    We all wait for our turn…
    the storms of life come to each one of us in different ways and at different times.
    Lord, help and protect us.


  5. I thank God for his protection.
    The record breaking storm came and went.
    We did not lose electricity.
    We got 30.2 inches of snow.
    With help from two neighbors, we were “out” by 2:00 today.
    Thank God for the angels that come in flesh and tractor red and green.
    One Mennonite neighbor came with his tractor equipped with snow blower and front end bucket.
    Another Amish neighbor came with his tractor to fine tune corners.
    He also helped me with some of the shoveling.
    God is good.
    And helpful neighbors are a huge blessing, indeed.


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