It’s our second day at -40.

We, and by that I mean our entire household, are caving into the overwhelming cold, but it’s not what you might think. We’ve become a family of shuffling zombies, sniffling, sneezing, coughing globs of gunk into tissues and napkins from overstuffed chairs and couches. I’m the sickest so far, as is evidenced by my having turned the bed into a raft floating in ice fog. It’s nice here, having a fever, shivering under a pile of comforters, my camomile tea with honey on the nightstand, an open copy of The Sun in my lap.

I’ve sneezed my way through our last two boxes of tissues and a roll of t.p. (though little r, transporter of this catarrhous play-school malady, seems to prefer his pajama sleeves, or mine). When I finish reading Leath Tonino’s interview with David Hinton on the wisdom of ancient Chinese poets, which could take all morning because I keep nodding off, I know I’ll be insanely antsy. As Hinton says,

The self is always moving.

I am a mover. I like to MOVE!

R, tapping on his computer across the room, is the least ailing of all of us. I announce that I’ll be right back, just gonna dash outside to photograph the golden sunrise bursting across the sky right now. He says, “No way. I’ll tackle you if you try.”

It’s unlike my husband to try to control me in any way, but he’s right. I’m too sick, maybe too sick to even move. I successfully negotiate dragging myself upstairs for a quick shot through the living room window, and then a dizzy drift back to bed. My eyes clunk closed and my brain, a mucous factory, ponders the other kind of cold.

Negative 40 is

  • rich in cosmic blasts of golden sunrise
  • where Fahrenheit and Celsius scales come together: -40°F = -40°C


  • when parhelia abound


  • physically frightening: nose hairs freeze, breath burns, eyeballs, eyelashes and beards frost over, and fingers and toes, lips and nose tips are toast. Look at this guy!


  • the instigator of sinking smoke stack plumes


  • perfect for turning wet hair into Statue of Liberty spikes at Circle Hot Springs which, unfortunately, is no longer open
  • the best time to blow bubbles and toss water into the air

  • instrumental in making ice fog shimmer like diamonds
  • why Ravens fluff up their feathers and cry like ice cubes grinding against each other


Hours later, I wake up, The Sun still open on my lap. Somehow, I’m on the last page of the article, where several of Hinton’s translations appear. In “Night Rain At Luster Cap” I read

I scratch my head in a dream, then get up and listen
til dawn, hearing each sound appear and disappear.

I’ve listened to rain all my life. My hair’s white now,
and I still don’t know night rain on a spring river.

Maybe knowing only so much about cold, and cold, is enough.



Quotes are from The Sun, January 2015, Issue 469.

Photo credits:                                                                                                                        -40 guy: http://jezebel.com/this-is-what-40-f-feels-like-1495629103                                        Sinking smokestack plumes: Robert Dodd

All other photos taken by author.

20 thoughts on “Feverish at Negative 40

    • I know this is strange, Lisa, but I actually like AK better in winter because there’s no dust and there aren’t any mosquitoes. On the other hand, -40 may seem a bit unreasonable, but not those living on “permafrost.” They need the cold. Any time of year, however, is gorgeous. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Bur-r-r, I just got colder reading your post, Susan. I think I’ll throw another blanket on the bed tonight. I’ve been hiding inside, too. We’ve had 8 days in the 40’s this month, and three more in the 50’s. Stay warm, get well!

    Liked by 1 person

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