Girl and her dog

Today was the winter’s first BPC Day: a day so cold, I wore my Big Puffy Coat.

I’ve lived in New England long enough, I have a closet full of winter coats. There’s the green fleece jacket I wear when the temperature is in the 40s and 50s, the pink jacket I wear when the temperature is in the 30s, the mid-length brown coat I wear when the temperature is in the 20s, and the Mother of All Coats: a purple, full-length down coat I wear when the temperature is in the teens, single digits, and below.

My Big Puffy Coat is as warm and cumbersome as a down comforter: imagine walking around swaddled in all your bedding. It has a hood, which I typically wear over a knit beret: on BPC Days, it takes a hat and a hood to stay warm.

If I zip my BPC all the way up, I don’t need a scarf, as the collar covers my throat and chin…and since my BPC has deep, fleece-lined pockets, I can get away with wearing thin knit gloves instead of thick Bernie mittens.

It was 8 degrees when I walked Roxy this morning, but tomorrow the temperature is supposed to rise to the mid-30s, and on Thursday we’ll enjoy a 40-degree thaw.

This means I’ll repeatedly swap one coat for another over the next few days: not only do I have a closet full of winter coats, each one has a hat in the sleeve and a pair of gloves and a roll of dog-poop bags in the pockets. It’s important to be prepared for whatever weather any given dog-walk brings.

Dog walk shadows

After more than a quarter century living in New England, I’ve realized some inexorable truths. The day after a snowstorm is almost always sunny, and the most bitterly cold days often have the clearest, bluest skies.

Dog walk shadows

This morning when I walked Toivo, it was seventeen degrees: a temperature that felt brutally cold at the time, but I’ve lived in New England long enough to know there will be days when temperatures in the double-digits will feel warm. But today felt colder than usual, so I wore my longest, fluffiest down coat, and the dog and I kept moving.

It was bright and brisk, and I didn’t wear a ballcap or sunglasses: I just squinted into the glare, knowing that light more than warmth is the thing I crave in midwinter. Even the most bitterly cold days are bearable if the sun is beaming from a turquoise-blue sky; the winter days that crush your soul aren’t the cold ones but the gray ones.

Louie and Stan - Jan 26 / Day 26

It’s been fiercely cold this week, so I’ve spent a lot of time hunkered down at home. Our cats are indoor creatures who have perfected the art of hunkering, mapping out the warmest radiators and most comfortable cushions. On a cold day, there’s something hugely comforting about curling up with a warm laptop and a purring throng of resting, grooming, and sleeping creatures, each of them quietly stoking their inner fires.

All ears

This isn’t to say I haven’t ventured out during this cold snap: I still have face-to-face classes to teach, dogs to escort to and from our backyard dog pen, and a photo a day to take. On Thursday, I dragged myself out of my office at Framingham State to take a short walk off campus and back, even a twenty-minute walk feeling like an adventurous arctic exploration. As much as my body might not want to walk when temperatures are in the single-digits, walking in the brutal cold feels strangely healthy after you’ve done it, the brisk air enlivening your steps. “Cold air kills flu germs,” I tell myself as I breathe the first, searing lungful of frigid air. I don’t know whether that is scientifically true, but it feels healthy to breathe fresh air rather than the stale, indoor stuff shared with colleagues, students, and random strangers.

Scooby keeps warm

On Friday, J and I went to an afternoon symphony concert, which meant we bundled up to walk from our house to the T and from the T to Symphony Hall, stopping along the way for lunch. “That’s a popular choice,” our waiter chuckled after both J and I ordered hot soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Looking up, J and I noticed that indeed, the restaurant was filled with bundled married couples, many of them eating hot soup and sandwiches, and all of them clearly headed to the symphony.

Stan lounging

“These are the hardy symphony-goers who can still get around on their own,” I whispered to J, since the BSO is largely popular with elderly folks, many of whom arrive at Symphony Hall by the busload from local retirement communities: one of the perks of growing old in a city with a world-class orchestra. True to our experience of past concerts, the BSO ushers expertly guided folks with physical challenges to their seats, whisking away canes and walkers to be stored in a neat row outside the restroom: the geriatric equivalent of the rows of baby-strollers you see outside playgrounds and popular amusement park rides.


“At least they showed up,” J mentioned, nodding to our otherwise empty row; apparently many concert-goers stayed home, daunted by either the cold weather or the threat of flu. I’d stuffed a handful of cough drops in my purse before we left home, knowing that Coughing At The Symphony is a social faux pas that is to be avoided at all costs. We didn’t need to avail ourselves of that emergency stash, though, and we heard very few coughs or sniffles during the symphony’s performance. Apparently the folks who venture out for a concert on a frigid day are an especially hardy bunch.

Tuning - Jan 25 / Day 25