The Transformative Power of Winter, Part Deux

Today Chicago’s temperature is in the single digits, the area was issued wind chill warnings overnight and today, and I’m loving it. We haven’t had a good, long, cold winter around here for 10 years or more, and it feels right. Of course, my only appointment outside today is a haircut, but I can bundle up any way I like for that. Take the hat off at the salon, hair looks like a mat of milkweed seeds, stylist tries to do something with it, pay and tip the stylist, put hat back on head, worry about how it looks sometime in April. Late April.

This is what winter should be. Bracing, dangerous, an invasion of air from the Arctic! And since that means there’s still an Arctic to send us this blast of frostbite, that’s good news for the environment, right?

This season can change so many things around us. It turned Montrose Avenue four blocks east of me into an earthquake and flood zone two mornings ago, for instance. I wrote the other day about how it has turned me into a self-righteous sourpuss (although the people who sent me comments said it just accelerated a process that began in my youth).

I don’t about my body all that much in this blog, something everyone should be happy about. I have to mention here, though, one amazing transformation that winter has brought out in me. Specifically, in my feet. Through dehydration and cold and tight bundling, the skin on my feet has dried and cracked so much that my pedal extremities look like the horns of an old buffalo. And again, I’m loving it. I feel I could walk up a wall like Spider-Man, grabbing the surface of the brick with the chitin-like tendrils of my feet. I could run across the top of a herd of sheep and never slip. I could prep a wood floor for finishing, simply by putting “Waltz of the Flowers” on the stereo, taking off my socks and pretending I was Scott Hamilton.

Somehow, I feel indebted to winter for these newfound skills. It took no effort, exercise or attention on my part to turn my feet into giant pink burrs. It happened all by itself. It’s a marvelous thing to wonder whether your socks are wearing out faster from the inside or the outside, and realize it’s Nature’s way. I feel a oneness with everything, and a kinship to our summertime buddy the cricket, as I rub the soles of my feet together and emit high-pitched scrapings that make the dog bark.