I wrote yesterday about our sub-zero temperatures. After posting my blog, I drove into Helena for a scheduled teaching engagement, leaving my house in the deep blue of pre-dawn.
I immediately encountered bitter cold temperatures. After travelling only a mile from my house, my truck’s outside thermometer began to register a temperature of minus 30 F. As I drove from the ranchlands and into the central valley, the temperatures continued to drop. At one point, near where I crossed Prickly Pear Creek, the temperature dropped to minus 40 F.
That’s not just cold. That is another reality. At such cold temperatures, everything becomes brittle. If you brush against a tree branch, it is likely to shatter. Sounds attain distinct edges and carry much greater distances. The snow under your tires squeals and squeaks. The instant you step outside, the cold air stings your face. Normally pliant plastics will readily break.
Years ago, I was sent to connect wiring to a satellite dish in conditions such as yesterday’s. When I tried to unfurl some wires from a junction box on the dish, the insulation on the wires shattered and fell away from the copper conductors. I alternated (in five-minute sessions) between working outside and warming in my idling truck that day.
Consider this: According to the National Weather Service, at minus 15 F with a wind-chill of -55 degrees, you can get frostbite in as little as five minutes.
At the same time, the cold paints a beautiful white and blue landscape. The air sparkles like fairy dust whenever struck by light. Shadows attain a new depth. The ice on lakes begins to sing—sounding like a whales calling from the ocean. Finally, these temperatures come with cloudless days and bright sunshine.
Pretty and dangerous, this other reality.