Subzero survival tips

This article was originally published on on January 7, 2014.
Used by permission. 


Christmastime was a great ending to 2013. We had a peaceful Christmas morning at home with a picnic in front of the fire. Eggnog French toast and savory breakfast tarts. After half an hour of the girls using the camera to take pictures of one another posing with packages and the most amazing ridiculous faces, they enthusiastically opened their gifts. Oil pastels, a harmonica and Australian animal figurines. Books. We had always have trouble getting them to put the books down to finish the task at hand. A jigsaw puzzle of Europe and a table tennis set they can hook onto any table and play pingpong the wholesome old-fashioned way (sans red cups).



I had the outdoor glass patio table in mind when I bought the table tennis set. And maybe just a flirty thought or two about spring. I am fully enamored with winter but we are having record subzero temperatures. Pipe-bursting, windowsill-icing, no-you-cannot-play-outside-you-want-your-nose-and-cheeks-into-adulthood temperatures. Though on the flip-side, I find myself lusting for the subarctic places on my “if I could afford to travel” list. Alaska. Scandinavia. Siberia. Don’t even get me started on Canadian boreal forest. It’s so (relatively) close I can smell it.



At noon we took a leisurely walk to the lake for snow angels and ice to slip and slide on. My left leg went through the ice into the lake, which was admittedly funny and quite refreshing. I spent the rest of the afternoon making an Indian Christmas dinner, as requested by the girls. It was a gift to have time alone to enjoy cooking, watching the snow fall outside. The girls figured out how to play Sorry all on their own and watched Elf for the first time. And my husband and I had a Twin Peaks marathon over spiced rice pudding late into the night. (It was a holiday which requires many italics, evidently.)

The first week of 2014 has been spent burning half our stockpile of wood to keep warm. Investing in space heaters and chipping rather than shoveling the driveway. With the windchill, it was 60 degrees warmer in Anchorage last week, so I don’t know why my husband is so resistant to moving to Alaska. I just want to live there for a year. Or two. The way I see it, if you can make it in the North Country, you can make it anywhere. That is the lesson I am most struck by as I work on my Circle 30 project this month. Living through hardship, though it generally absolutely sucks while you’re in it, prepares you for just about anything life throws your way. Coming out the other side of suffering does not guarantee you will never suffer again, as if you had your share in life and now you’re ready for only the good parts. But if you choose to learn from it, you will be better equipped to endure. When the mercury retreats, you have to keep the fire burning because in the end your very survival depends on it.

N.E. Swinton

I grew up on the outskirts of a small mill town where visiting The City meant driving an hour to Albany. I have a liberal arts degree from Rochester Institute of Technology. I currently make my home in a majestic little place on the corner of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains.