I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, and of course it’s below freezing now, but whatever, at the time it was warm and wet:
It’s already December, but we haven’t had any serious winter weather yet. There have been a few cold days, but there hasn’t been any bitterness to the chill, no temperature you’d be able to describe as bone-chilling. And the past few days have been pretty rainy, so it’s like, I’ll go outside, I’m wearing what I think should be appropriate mid-December gear, a sweater, gloves, a scarf, and it’s all too much, it feels like it’s maybe pushing fifty degrees, I’m starting to sweat, and my feet are getting wet through my sneakers.
And I try not to let my mind focus on things that I really can’t control, but I wonder what the Northeast is going to be like if we keep having warm, wet winters. I remember a few years ago, we had one of these autumns that was almost tropical. I read in the newspaper this article about how these giant mushrooms were growing all over the city. Of course you had groups of starry-eyed foragers going on about how much money they’d have had to spend on shitakes if they hadn’t had the good fortune of stumbling into some rotted log in the park, but the fungus was seeping into peoples houses, weird oblong-shaped shrooms were sprouting from the cracks of people’s walls.
And this is just the start, right? Pretty soon we’ll have giant palmetto bugs year round, I mean, they have those in DC, it’s only a matter of time before those more tropical pests move up north. And what about snakes? Are we going to get snakes? Isn’t black mold a really big problem? How do you tell black mold from regular mold?
I’m sitting here freaking out about how I’m not going to be able to survive the gradual change in temperature, but right now, today, it’s actually pretty cold out. I think me sitting here and finally feeling a chill inside my house, inside my body, it’s what prompted me to think about the weather in the first place, about the lack of winter. It’s already December and on this one particularly cold day, I’m feeling like it’s the oddity here.
But I think I like winter. I don’t know. It’s always great up until my knuckles start cracking and bleeding from being too dry. It’s just like the warm weather. I enjoy it until my skin starts breaking out alongside my temple. I don’t know what my body wants, really, because as soon as the temperature starts to swing in the other direction, I’m only afforded a brief window of comfort before I start reacting negatively to the climate.
I’m probably just complaining too much. I know that I’m freaking out. I’m sitting here by the window and I can feel the winter air through the walls. For everything that I complain and worry about, I still can’t imagine how human beings dealt with the weather a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago. If I get too cold I can just hop in the shower, steam myself back to homeostasis.
But how did the pioneers deal with winter? You spend all of this time chopping down trees and building yourself a house out of wood, and then the winter comes and you’re freezing and you’re wet and you’re stuck inside that box of wood, insulation hasn’t been invented yet, and so if I can kind of feel this not-even-that-wintery weather through the walls of my modern house, I can’t imagine a log cabin or whatever providing much comfort against one of those historical winters that you just know had to have been much more severe than the seasons are today.
And I always think about George Washington, that famous painting where they’re all crossing the Delaware on Christmas. Like, Jesus, that had to have been freezing, icy water sloshing up over the sides of that boat, and what did they make winter coats out of back then? Animal pelts? There’s no way that they could have been even close to as warm as I am with my contemporary double-layered jacket. I have waterproof boots, wool socks, man, those guys must have been miserable for months at a time.
I wonder if those soldiers in that boat knew that everything that they were fighting for, it would all lead to this, our modern world, where some guy gets to sit at his computer and write on the Internet about how he’s afraid of wild mushrooms or about how it’s too warm this winter. If I were in their position, I would’ve been like, fuck this, this shit’s crazy, let’s just all move south. Yeah, we’ve got to deal with snakes, and palmetto bugs, and spiders, and malaria, but cold wet feet for three months at a time? And what happens when we finally cross that Delaware, we’ve got to go to war? Battlefield injuries with no antibiotics? Yeah, sorry General, I’ll be back in just one second, you guys get in the boat without me, I promise I’ll be right back.