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MARTHA SEZ: If this cold weather doesn’t kill us, we’ll be in great shape by spring

January 19, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

"St. Agnes Eve-Ah, bitter chill it was!"

-John Keats, "The Eve of St. Agnes"

I overheard two year-round Keene Valley residents at the Village Post Office (VPO) at McDonough's Valley Hardware the other day. You couldn't say they were having a conversation, but they exchanged a few words.

"Are you happy now we're having a real Adirondack winter?" asked the first man as he unlocked his mailbox.

"No, I'm not happy!" the other man said. The mailboxes are on an outside porch where the temperature was about 20 degrees below zero, so you could hardly blame him.

Since I blew into town almost 27 years ago, I have been hearing that winters here are not what they once were. They used to have real winters, with serious cold weather. And snow?

The snow we get now is nothing compared to the snow they had way back when.

At first I dismissed this talk as oldtimer exaggeration, but now, as an oldtimer myself, I believe it. During the time I've lived here, our climate zone has warmed from zone 3 to zone 4, although it still gets cold.

Very early this morning, you might even say too early, my friend Cathleen came knocking at my back door for our daily walk. She reports to Keene Central School to drive the school bus at 6 a.m. and is busy with work and family from then until bedtime, so too early in the morning is the only time she has to walk.

The wind whistles and icy grains of snow, like superfine sugar, come gusting into the kitchen when I open the door.

"Cold enough for you?" I ask.

"Pretty near," she allows. "You might want to dress warm."

I layer on some more wool and polar fleece and pull on my giant sheepskin coat, and we lurch out into the darkness.

What Cathleen and I generally do is haul ourselves up Adirondack Street, which is very nearly perpendicular most of the way. Encumbered by heavy clothing-although Cathleen doesn't bundle up as much as I do-we push on through the snow like penitents atoning for grievous sin. In fact, we are acting on a New Year's resolution, which I have noticed often amounts to the same thing.

"Your eyelashes are frozen!" I tell Cathleen after we have arrived at a level spot in the road. "Your eyebrows are all white with frost."

"Yours, too," Cathleen says. When we laugh, we pull the frigid air deep into our lungs, which makes us cough and wheeze as if we had asthma.

Today the sky is pierced with stars and the moon follows us through the woods, lighting our way. Moonlight and shadow shift in changing patterns on the white road. Only the deer have been up before us to leave their tracks.

There is no sound other than the wind in the trees and the snow squeaking under our boots. We look warily at a creaking birch swaying over the road and walk as far as we can over to the other side. No sense getting brained by blowdown on our daily health jaunt.

"This is so good for us. We'll be in great shape by spring," Cathleen says.

"Yes, if it doesn't kill us first," I say. "This cold is lethal. A person could die out here."

We have said these words so many times they sound familiar and cheering to me now.

We have walked this route other winters, and I know that every morning the sun will rise a little earlier. Eventually, there will be signs of spring: birds calling, baby raccoons watching us from the tree branches and more people out than the occasional jogger and the woman who delivers newspapers to houses tucked up in the hills along the road.

When we get to the parking lot called the Garden, where hikers can leave their vehicles before hitting the mountain trails, we turn around.

Downhill is cake, all endorphin rush and self-congratulation. But, "Careful not to slip and fall, it's icy here," Cathleen warns. "You have to kind of hold yourself back as you walk."

Safely down again, Cathleen turns off at the school.



Soon I am home, where there is light and heat and I can lie in a hot bath and look at flower catalogs. When summer comes, which at this moment seems impossible, please stop me if you hear me complain about the heat.

Have a good week!



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