It is mid January and the cheer of the holidays are a lingering memory. Deep cold has settled over the world. We'll have a January thaw, this week in fact, but it will be short lived. This is the time of year for deep still cold. Temperatures that settle into bone aching negatives and don't budge much when the sun rises. The River is frozen except for a small trail of spring fed water. The trees groan and pop in night and branches sometimes crash down as sap freezes and splits limbs. Every step in the snow squeaks and your breath freezes in a haze of ice crystals on each exhale. The scream of a rabbit speaks to the owl's success as the sky lightens.
The deep cold of the northwoods isn't something one easily forgets about or passes through. Heavy clothing, face coverings and multiple layers make working outdoors something of a chore. Cars don't start, pipes freeze, hinges screech and concrete buckles. Ice is simply a part of the landscape now, on lakes, gutters, sidewalks, and roads and no amount of salt will melt ice in these temperatures. The walls near doors and windows send out waves of cold into rooms. The sense of quiet and stillness in the forests and fields is somehow soothing.
We get about 30 days of these extreme cold snaps spreading over a week here, 2 weeks there and then it's over. And despite this challenging cold, the sunlight lasts a little longer each day and the seed catalogs continue to arrive in the mail. January and February mean extra gear piled by the door, more days indoors, fewer walks and a sense of relief and joy with the temperatures rise above 20 degrees and the sun comes out.