There’s the “postcard” kind of cold that makes you want to hunker under a blanket with a cup of coffee and watch it snow. There’s the “toughen up” kind of cold that bores into your forehead like an ice-cream headache. And then there’s the “shrill” cold that whips around corners, tears at your face, and pulls a string of highly colorful vocabulary from your lips before you even realize that you’re speaking.
I’m learning about cold—it’s brittle, diamond-like texture, and it’s clear, clean character. It’s three weeks into my move to Wisconsin and I’ve been outside every day. A Wisconsinite told me that the best way to acclimate to the weather was to be in it, so that’s what I’ve done. Every day. Several miles a day. Bundled up like Nanook of the North, trudging through snow and ice and frost. I do this because cold is like a bully, and bullies need to be faced head-on. I refuse to cower in my house. Cold is what you expect them you move to Wisconsin in January. The surprise is that I like it.
There are things I don’t like: salt on everything (thank goodness for my Swiffer), hat hair, and the turn, on a hill, leading into our underground garage—a driveway so treacherous that despite not having put a scratch on the car, I keep having visions of crashing through the garage door in an uncontrolled skid…
But I like the cold. I like the way it creates instant community and common ground in public places. I like how it feels to wake up to a day so clear and frigid that everything is diamond-hard and brilliant. I like how the river steams when the temperatures get into the single digits as it flows through banks of pristine white—a monochrome, architectural world. I like sleeping on cold nights, snuggled under quilts, while the weather presses against the windows. The Danes call this sort of cosy thing hygge. I call it winter in Wisconsin.
The outside world: snow, sunshine, an adrenaline rush of exercise in cold air. The inside world: sun warming hardwood floors, a view of the river, hot tea, soft quilts, and music. I’m working on Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Chester Biscardi’s Companion Piece. But on this particularly cold day (it was -12* this morning), I warmed my home with Still—a piece of music as loving and generous as my friend Dana Libonati who composed it. Here it is—an impromptu “performance” on my out-of-tune piano and filmed on my phone—a little slice of Wisconsin Hygge on a frigid day.