Winter Rules


As we march toward spring, take a look at these Winter Rules, as published in the Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner, February 5, 1881.

  • Never begin a journey until the breakfast has been eaten.
  • Never take warm drinks and then immediately go out in the cold air.
  • Keep the back – especially between the shoulder blades – well-covered, also the chest well-protected.
  • In sleeping in a cold room, establish the habit of breathing through the nose, and never with the mouth open.
  • Never go to bed with cold or damp feet; always toast them by the fire 10 or 15 minutes before going to bed.
  • Never omit regular bathing, for unless the skin is in an active condition, the cold will close the pores and favor congestion or other diseases.
  • After exercise of any kind, never ride in an open carriage nor near the window of a car for a moment. It is dangerous to health, and even to life.
  • When hoarse, speak as little as possible until it is recovered from, else the voice may be permanently lost, or difficulties of the throat be produced.
  • Merely warm the back by a fire, and never continue keeping the back exposed to heat after it has become comfortably warm. To do otherwise is debilitating.
  • When going from a warm atmosphere into a colder one, keep the mouth closed, so that the air may be warmed by its passage through the nose, ere it reaches the lungs.
  • Never stand still in cold weather, especially after having taken a slight degree of exercise; and always avoid standing upon ice or snow, or where the person is exposed to a cold wind.

So, are you a rule follower?!

March Blues

330px-4-leaf_cloverI never really cared for the month of March. There are no holidays in March, and here in New England it’s still cold, even though spring starts on the 21st. Blustery, muddy March. Rainy days led to historic flooding in Rhode Island at the end of March 2010.

We’re all just so weary from this past winter, the never-ending snow, mountains of it taller than the average person. My husband calls it an unlucky month – I guess he has cause. He lost two family members on the same date in March. I quit my job in March four years ago, a job that likely would have given me a heart attack or stroke.

And yet…..and yet. I can’t write this post without trying to turn it around somehow. There are patches of grass visible. Even crocus in some spots. We had a 50-plus degree day this past week, a sweet promise of weather to come. So celebrate the feast of St. Patrick this Tuesday, and smile!

Irish blessing


37 Years Between Historic Blizzards

We’re supposed to get a blizzard of “historic proportions” starting tomorrow. I was a sophomore at Providence College when, not even two months after a tragic dorm fire that eventually claimed the lives of ten young women, the Blizzard of ’78 hit us hard. Two and a half feet of snow stopped traffic, stranded hundreds, and made for an extra, unexpected vacation for us.

But I’m not 20 years old anymore, and now I think about what we have on hand for an emergency: batteries, candles, food that doesn’t need to be cooked. An elderly father-in-law, a sister living alone. Weather like this can be treacherous! So be safe and stay home if possible. Read a book. Drink wine and tea. Eat chocolate. Play a game with your kids (or, as I’m learning is more the case with my peers, grandkids). Make love. Then eat again!


I’ve Grown Accustomed to the Fleece

It will come to an end, and likely soon. After all, we’re nearly at April in southern New England, and even though early April has been wintry in the past (remember the April Fool’s Day blizzard?), we march out of March and straight into spring.

Since October, I’ve been wearing fleece. Every day. Every blasted freezing day. Better than a sweater, in my opinion, and it’s great for layering. Like when you need to wear two tee shirts and a shirt under that fleece. I’m going to have withdrawal symptoms.

There will be a day, soon, when the temperature rises, to the mid-60’s, perhaps, and I’ll see folks in shorts and tees, unable to wait any longer for spring and summer. Yeah, they rush the season, but they’re young (mostly) and should be forgiven. When I was a college freshman in Providence, I made a trip home at the end of April and relinquished all my winter clothes. There were only a few weeks left to the semester and I wouldn’t need them.

And then it snowed. Yep, in May. In Providence. Seven inches of snow! I had sandals, and jeans, and one cardigan sweater. Nothing more. Certainly no fleece. But the snow melted and the daffodils sprang back to life.

Onto warmer weather. And fleece? Time to pack it away! I’ll leave one within reach, though.

Life is Hard. Life is Beautiful.

This past Friday, I attended the funeral service for a 58-year-old man who had lived with a brain tumor for ten years. And now I know yet another widow who will not have the chance to grow old with her best friend.

We may have more snow on Wednesday. As if this winter hasn’t beaten us down enough. March will not slip into spring, not without one last roar, apparently. Cities and towns have run out of salt, have depleted their snow budgets long ago. We’re going broke paying for heat. Our roads are falling apart. School may last until July at this point, with so many cancelled days. I’ve ingested too many carbs this winter, trying to find comfort in a bowl of macaroni and cheese.

Depression is all around. Whether it’s because of aging, menopause, winter, unemployment, lost love, or the feeling that time is slipping through our fingers, it can be a struggle to get up each morning and just live. I get it. I see it in my friends, I listen to it. People I love are suffering.

Locarno - photo by M. Reynolds
Locarno – photo by M. Reynolds

The snow will melt. It will feed the rivers. Life will burst forth – not yet, but soon. New life means hope. Hope brings light to darkness. It covers cold with warmth. It vanquishes dread and despair. Hope is joy. Joy is laughter. Life is beautiful.

The Cost of Cold

Perhaps I should have titled it “The Cost of Getting Warm.”


Here we are in March, that long, dreary month. Yes, spring arrives, but it’s still a tough month – my least favorite. And this year especially, so many of us are weary of the never-ending, hard-hitting, spirit-sapping winter. Today I’m considering the high cost of cold.

I realize not everyone lives where I do (Rhode Island). But so much of this country has experienced a dreadful time this winter. So I ask:

  • Where do you set your thermostat? We live in a two-story one-zone condo, about 1,400sf or so. We like it cool. No, really, we do. But still, heating costs have been brutal. We keep the temperature around 60-62 and just wear fleece. How about you? 68? 70?
  • How do you heat your home? We use natural gas, which used to be a lot cheaper than oil, but a few weeks ago, natural gas prices hit a five-year high. My first apartment was a cozy studio, and heat was included in my rent. My second apartment was a second-floor walkup, heat also included, but the landlord locked the thermostat at 68. No worries for me, that was plenty warm enough. My third apartment was the entire first floor of an old, drafty house, and it was never warm.

There are so many other costs associated with the cold. Plowing. Salting. Car washes. Damage from snow and ice. Our roads are filled with potholes. Everywhere. It feels like driving in a third-world country. So there are the necessary repairs to cars. Who can’t wait for spring?


Snow Fatigue

Another 5-8″ this afternoon into tonight. And we’re only halfway through February! Now, if you know me, you know I prefer cold weather to the heat and humidity of summer. But cold, dry weather is one thing. The trifecta of snow, ice, and freezing rain is a completely different nightmare.

We’re all tired of it. I see it on the faces of moms in the supermarket, preparing for another day of no school. I see it in the face of my little dog, who does not like squatting on ice! I see it on my car, splattered with salt and sand, even after a thorough washing.

And then I pause, remembering our ancestors, who did not have electric blankets, Thinsulate, Ugg boots, clothes dryers, or TheraFlu. They made it through harsh winters, and never complained on social media! But isn’t that part of the fun? We post photos and videos as a way of coping.

And we know that this never-ending season, this winter filled with discontent, will melt away under the sun. Eventually.