Gorby emerging

Although it’s been bitterly cold this week, with temperatures well below freezing, the sun has been blindingly brilliant. Day after day in my journal, I’ve marveled at how the sky has been crystal-clear and cloudless and the sun blazingly bright: how can a day look white-hot when actually the temperature is in the single digits?

Icicles, with Obama window signs

Despite the frigid temperatures, the snow is shrinking, subliming into air that is bone-dry with chill. In the morning, I slather lotion on my legs, which immediately soak it up; the second I go outside, I can feel the air sucking moisture from my skin. Winter is the closest we get to desert here in the northeast: windblown snow stings just like sand, and like Bedouins we shroud our faces in scarves and other protective headdresses. Even the shortest dog-walk feels like an Arctic expedition in weather like this: you bundle up before you go, and you unwrap yourself like a present when you return. Identities in winter are accumulative: these days, “I” exist in layers duly donned, then shed, then re-acquired. Who would I be, in January, without my coat, hat, or gloves?

Icicles

Turquoise-blue skies and crystal-clear days are perfect for photography, but snapping photos means stopping and peeling off a glove, and those are the last two things I want to do on single-digit days: the secret to dog-walking on frigid days is to keep moving. I find myself growing blind to the beauties of snow, which lies strewn and heaped like last week’s laundry: what seemed so lovely and picturesque in early December has outgrown its welcome by mid-January. Lines of icicles that once gleamed gem-like now threaten like razor-sharp incisors, a reminder (as if we needed one) that winter bites.

You can compare today’s lead photo of Gorby emerging from his snow-blanket to that of Gorby almost-buried a week ago. We’re supposed to get more snow tomorrow, which means temperatures will rise into double-digits and Gorby will be re-blanketed.