I am an Inuit warrior

  • Cartoon: Hey, come on out! The snow's great!

    Diane Sylvain

"Let's walk downtown and get a video," said my husband on a starry January evening.

"Are you out of your mind?" I asked, peeking at the thermometer outside the kitchen window. The red line hovered near zero. "That would mean we'd have to go outside."

"Honey," he said, as gently as he could. "We live in a mountain town."

Ah yes, I'd heard that one before: "We live in a mountain town." People like to remind me of this, as if I'm unaware of the gantlet of 13,000-foot snowcapped peaks that sandwiches Telluride, Colo.

I know what is expected of me as a citizen of a mountain town: I must not only relish the cold, I must also revel in the ecstasy of it. Mountain people! They live for fresh powder. Hot-blooded cold mongers who go to Alaska in spring.

It's a shameful thing, really, to abhor the cold and live in the Rockies. It's akin to hating the water and living on Nantucket. But I refuse to give in and join the flannel-brained masses in the mono-weather cultures found in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Palm Springs. And, for the record, I don't hate snow. Snow, as one friend puts it, "makes a lovely backdrop for reading." It's wonderful stuff, snow, so long as it doesn't get into your boots.

It's not that I despise cold per se. It's just that it lasts so long here. In May, when it's still snowing, I have to sprinkle St. John's Wort onto my food and sit under a Gro-Lite just to function. How's this for an off-season come-on: Come visit the majestic, snowy Rockies in springtime. We'll take care of your every need, including ensuring that you have a rope to throw over a hand-hewn rustic beam and a custom-made rawhide-and-deer-antler chair to kick out from underneath your swinging body.

It's not the cold I hate so much as it is The Clench. The Clench is an unconscious tensing of all parts of the body, from my hair follicles to my toes, from November to May. The only antidote for the Clench is Vicodin and brandy. Or a bone-baking trip in the Utah desert.

Speaking of warm locales, I am currently in the throes of a nasty bout of Caribbean fever: cravings for fried bananas, steel drum bands and fakey green water. The only cure: Vicodin and brandy.

It doesn't help that I live in an old house (read: "rustic charm!"). There's nothing quite like watching TV while wearing a wool hat and sitting on the couch in your sleeping bag to make you fall in love with winter all over again.

I am taking measures to fight the cold. Much to the chagrin of my husband, I take two-hour showers. I also dress for success. Indoors, I wear fleece pants and extra-nubby fleece pullovers, which make me look like a plush toy with a human head. Outside, I am simply pneumatic, a rhapsody in down. I've purchased fleece-lined jeans from the folks in Maine who really know cold: L.L. Bean. (I'd have to set myself on fire to get warm in Maine.) Fleece-lined jeans! What an invention. You won't cut a graceful figure in fleece-lined jeans. In fact, you'll look like Winnie the Pooh. But they sure are snuggly.

I'm also attempting to eat my way into a new phenotype. At present I'm a small ectomorph whose bones are woefully unshielded from the cold. So I eat like a bulimic Viking. I pack a brownie for a three-block trip to the post office. I'm taking notes on the cuisine of cold cultures. Dinner at our house these days is likely to be cream-of-mushroom-soup casseroles and lutefisk. And another brownie.

Above everything else, I'm working to cultivate a warm, sunny attitude. I have a morning mantra that includes sayings such as, "The cold is my friend" and "I am an Inuit warrior."

Just the other night I waddled back into the house after walking the dog on the neighborhood tundra.

"So very - refreshing," I told my husband with a frozen smile.

Lou Bendrick is cold in Telluride, Colorado. She is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (www.hcn.org).

Copyright 2001 HCN and Lou Bendrick

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at betsym@hcn.org.