Wow it’s cold. I means seriously cold.

Granted, cold is a relative thing. New York City sees sub-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit!) every year, and this isn’t that. More extremely, in Minneapolis the temperature gets cold enough that you can spit, and your spittle will freeze before hitting the ground. Jack London’s infamous school-assigned short story To Build A Fire takes place in the Yukon. Mr. London reveals the likely outcome in the first paragraph, when he notes the air temperature is −75 °F or −59 °C. Penguins don’t march at those temperatures. Spoiler: the guy freezes to death. Secret ending: The dog doesn’t make it either. Mr. London allows the reader to pretend he does, though.*

In this case, the temperature is 47 °F. But the place is the interior of my room. That’s to say it is slightly warmer than the interior of an igloo. In the past I would expect the temperature to hit a low like this once in a bad year. Maybe twice to call it a hard winter. Such days would come in a cold snap around late February or early March.

Certainly not in December. Not on the mere tails of Autumn.

It’s a degree of cold that warrants four layers of leggings, and coats and gloves indoors. My current girth helps in this regard. My thinner roommate fights constantly to stay warm despite a down sleeping bag she stuffs herself in.

San Francisco doesn’t very often see freezing temperatures or extreme heat waves, for that matter. San Francisco is a microclimate of its own which stays milder than even the counties immediately around it. During the spring and autumn, my room is pretty fab. During summer heat waves, we blast our fans (no air conditioning) and sometimes hang out in the buff. During winter snaps, we dress like Siberians and take hot showers.

If it were March, I’d dream of the coming spring. I’d hope that this was the worst of the snaps.

But it’s December. And my feelings are mixed.

We will probably get no shadow for the groundhog on Groundhog Day (This one based on this, not this one). The early spring will follow, meaning a pleasant February and a continuing hard drought. We’ll expect more water conservation and expensive food prices.

Or I might see a really harsh winter, with even colder snaps that might drop temperatures here from unpleasant-and-uncomfortable to outright dangerous. This would probably mean intense snowfall in the Sierra-Nevadas, which could provide for ample river water and irrigation across California, come the thaw. We could see the drought sharply reduced.**

So…mixed feelings. For all of us.

* Jack London’s earlier version takes place on a not-so-cold day and the man in the story survives to tell the tale, albeit with injuries and lost toes due to frostbite. London revised it to drive the point home: Respect the cold.

** If the drought is reduced too much then we get massive floods and my sweetheart’s place north of here gets washed out to the pacific.


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