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Abigail B. Calkin

A Blog of Personal Thoughts

I Love Winter Weather!

February 2024

I love winter weather! It has always been my favorite season because of its snow. I can sled. I can ski. I can skate. I can walk. All right, I don’t go sledding anymore and I stopped ice skating when I had a knee replacement about ten years ago. I cross country ski and I walk. Some days my husband and I sit and watch it snow.

View out the kitchen, or front, door.

View out the kitchen, or front, door.

When I was in Peru several years ago, I bought a double-knit alpaca neck warmer. What a find, even better than the sweater I bought at the same store. If it’s below zero and windy, I have a chamois facemask my sister gave me after her husband died. I presume he wore it when skiing. What staying warm requires is simple: wear the right clothes. Long underwear of silk or wool, maybe wool pants, a heavy wool sweater, good leather mitts with inside wool gloves, a warm, wool hat, and a scarf just in case. My coat? A Mackinaw jacket, a down coat, a Hudson Bay Company coat with a rainproof outer lining, or an outer windproof jacket with a zip-in felt lining. I have them all and choose according to temperature, wind, rain, or snow.

When I consulted in Yukon Territory one January, it was -47 the day I left to drive from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, almost 200 miles. The map says it’s three hours and twenty minutes. That must be summertime when the road is dry and not snow and ice-coated. A -47 doesn’t care whether that’s Celsius or Fahrenheit, it’s cold. Bitter cold. The First Nations chief asked me what I had. A wool coat, a down coat, sleeping bag, sweaters, blankets, wool hat or two, scarves, two pairs of winter lined boots, extra socks…a thermos of hot tea, meat, cheese, bread, chocolate, a full tank of fuel, and more. A flashlight, mirror, matches. Do you have a candle, he asked. No. I didn’t ask him why a candle and he didn’t offer candle or explanation, but it would be to set on the dash to warm my hands if need be.

The drive was on a snow- and ice-covered road. I fishtailed once. I saw no other car or human. I called where I was staying in Whitehorse and left with firm directions to call back to Pelly Crossing as soon as I arrived there. I couldn’t stay another night in Pelly because an elder had died and they needed all five of the motel rooms. No room for me. When traveling in the north, I take two suitcases—one for my clothes and one for all the extra winter gear. I felt safe, but I’m not a Yukoner and took an extra hour or two for the drive. There are no houses along the road, no open café in the dead of winter. All I saw were eight elk. I spoke to them as I drove by. Thankfully, I arrived in Whitehorse without incident of any kind.

One would think after an experience like that that I never wanted to live in the north. I grew up in central Maine, northern New Hampshire, and Massachusetts in the time when we had cold winters and lots of snow. Snow meant play to me. Ski down short hills. I ice skated on any handy, frozen surface. In Maine, I walked a mile to the rink to skate. Every now and then an adult would tell me to go in the cabin. “I’m fine,” I said. “No, You’re not. Your lips are very blue. Get inside and warm up.” Sometimes I followed the directions, but the cabin was always so hot, I exited quickly. I was eight, nine, and ten. Of course, they knew who I was. My father was a professor and it was a small town. I always arrived home alive though, and my parents never told me I couldn’t go skating after school. I walked home in the dark that far north. No problem, I knew the way. Thirty below was not uncommon in winter in those days.

Now I live in southern Alaska. We have six hours of dim daylight in the dead of winter.

Our front “yard” which is only a clearing in the forest with some planter boxes for summer.

Our front “yard” which is only a clearing in the forest with some planter boxes for summer.

Digging for potatoes with Grandpa Goose.

Summer’s end when one of the planter boxes has four workers digging up the potatoes, the two grandchildren pick them up. Grandpa Goose and friend are the diggers.

Yes, our summers have eighteen hours between sunrise and sunset and it never gets fully dark. The garden grows wonderfully from June 1 till August 30, with the chance of freeze on either end. One April when the snow was gone, the rhubarb grew almost a foot a week. That’s exceptional. Often in April we still have snow or at least a snow cover. Back to winter for me.

Two moose in my yard in January.

What is better than seeing two moose in my yard in January? Nothing!

Winter view of my study.

My study, a lovely two-minute walk from the house where I nestle in winter, the best season to write. The chill on my cheeks is great for it makes me think clearly.

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