The Cold Snap


What does it feel like to be this cold? What can it do for us?

Credit: Steve Apfelbacher

Credit: Steve Apfelbacher


What is it like to be this cold? Negative 45 is just a number–though still helpful for contemplation. Useful to reckon with the craziness behind a 115 degree temperature swing from inside to outside our homes. Relevant to use as a benchmark to know it's been 23 years since its been this bitter frigid here in Minne-snowta.

To answer what it is like to be this cold we must quest what it feels like. What it feels like when your contacts take your eyes hostage–threatening to freeze to your retina unless you provide frequent blinking to satiate their thirst. What it sounds like to hear the commercial airplane flying overhead as it cuts through the cold air like molasses, rumbling with a sound that is both deep and high pitched simultaneously; that feels both 1000’s of miles away but right on top of you. What it smells like when there is only the absence of scent and the freezing of nostril hairs in its place.

To understand what it is like to be this cold we must also seek to understand what it causes us to think and ponder. Weather this extreme has the power to physically jar us and equally alter our perspectives of the world around us. It has me examining our dependence on one another and our interdependence within our community. It seems, ironically, we are simultaneously more deeply connected and isolated. Advised to hunker down, with schools and businesses closed to underscore the well intended advisories to stay indoors and avoid exposure, we stockpile our fridge, fill up our gas tanks, and commence the act of going stir crazy with our closest family and kin. We look inward. We snuggle under blankets.


It's an interesting dichotomy. Our bodies seek hibernation. But our neighborly thoughts, deeds and actions are awoken.


Concurrently, I find my awareness heightened to the needs of those outside my home–to the elderly woman who lives alone just down the block; to Mike, the street person on the corner of Franklin and Eustis; to the young student whose car has just failed in the cold, leaving him to push it out of traffic on University Avenue. It has me thinking of other places, over different timelines, all of which I have called home. Respectful of the cows who depended on us to keep their water tank from freezing and who built an interdependent relationship with our golden retriever Dougie, sharing each other’s body warmth and enough warm breath to steam the windows inside our old red barn. Memories of the phone trees conducted to ensure that every FFA member made it home safe to the countryside after our monthly officer meeting.

It's an interesting dichotomy. Our bodies seek hibernation. But our neighborly thoughts, deeds and actions are awoken. The text messages from loved ones near and far inquiring if I’m safe and warm reminds me that it is often extreme situations that compel actions. Contrast conditions us to see, feel and think differently. When in your life have you been shocked into action, snapped in a new direction? For me it’s not typically comfortable, but it has almost always been rewarding. This cold snap has me questioning–what would it look like if we didn’t wait for these moments to act?

As Minnesotans we are conditioned at a young age to embrace the cold. But even if you were born and raised here, we are not immune. We too must condition ourselves. We must make it a practice. A practice of perspective, an exercise in seeing and feeling differently, a process of validating the benefits of living in this cold tundra.

With ice scraper in hand my neighbor Phillip extends a wave as we simultaneously waddle out our front doors to start our frozen cars. Through a heavy duty face mask he shouts - well at least this is good for the emerald ash borer! He, and scientists, remind us of the silver lining of this cold weather snap, keeping away invasive species that are on the rise with climate change. Health enthusiasts clamber about the new trend of cold weather workouts - claiming their benefits of strengthening our immune system. When we are desperate for it, we seek a new perspective with great intention.

So what does it feel like to be this cold? Its uncomfortable. But it’s rewarding to be awoken to our interdependence as neighbors, to stir in me a practice of seeing others with new eyes. Maybe, subsciously, it’s why I live here. Perhaps, consciously, we can make it a new way of seeing and being in relationship. So bring it on Minne-snowta!

Anna Claussen