It is cold. The windchill was -9.5° this morning with more of the same for tomorrow. But we took a walk up to the Clamshell Pinnacle in Steep Rock with no ill effects and tonight's chicken was grilled outside. I'm wearing my long-sleeved, zip-neck Patagonia long underwear and my flannel-lined blue jeans from L. L. Bean, but the weather doesn't really affect us, much.
Then I think about the house we live in. It is known as a center-chimney colonial and was built in 1796 around a massive brick chimney that occupies about a fourth of the square footage of this house and includes four fireplaces plus a beehive oven. There was certainly no insulation and there were no storm windows, and it was considerably colder 200-years ago. And they knew not of Patagonia or L. L. Bean. How did they keep warm?
This is also the time of year when sap in the maples starts to rise. It won't be rising much today or tomorrow, but Valentine's Day is in four days and it is the traditional beginning of maple syrup season. They were already boiling sap down the hill in Woodbury this past weekend. We'll be putting out a few buckets again this year, but we won't be boiling over an open wood fire in an outdoor sugar house. That's an activity that could keep one warm, but we've got a gas stove for the job.
I wonder if our lack of necessity and abundance of conveniences and comforts has put an end to a natural sense of poetry in our lives. There just isn't a need for Robert Frost in an age of polyester insulation and waterproof boots—no horses harnesses, no muddy tramps, no swingers of birches. We are warm, but with very little poetry in our lives. Is there a solution?
-originally published 2/12/08 on Manifold Predictions