A Cold Winter Ahead

It was 36 degrees outside. The windshield of the suv was frosted over with ice. i slept with the space heater pointed towards my legs from across the room and it seemed to keep the chill off just enough for comfort. However, now that i was awake, the space heater had to be moved into the bathroom. I placed the heater on the floor facing the shower and slid the bathroom door shut. The water heater provided 8 minutes of hot water at best when the weather was warm. During 40 degree temperatures there were only 2 minutes of warm water and if the weather was in the thirties there was no warm water. The shower would start out cold and when the water in the actual heater was exhausted it would begin pulling from the ground through the well pump, turning the water from cold to icy. Normally, if the weather was 40 or below it prompted me to get up an hour early and boil water on the stove for a bath in my metal tub. However, with a torn ligament in my ankle i knew that this year i would not be able to pretzel myself into the small tub (a bigger tub would be too heavy to lift and carry across the floor to empty following the bath). I had 2 options. I could sponge bathe with a towel or take cold showers through the winter. Being that my job involved a great deal of sweat and jogging over 7 miles by the end of each shift, i didn’t feel that sponge bathing would be sufficient to remove all the grime and the extra strength sport deodorant that seemed to become one with my skin about four hours after application. 2020 had not been a fun year. I realized it was about to get worse. I had a long cold winter ahead of me. The good news was that i had a space heater and a vest and jacket filled with down feathers. Every morning i would get up four hours before it was time to leave for work. I would tend to the chickens and the dogs and get all my morning chores done by lantern light. Then i would place the heater in the bathroom while i cooked and ate breakfast. For half an hour i would sit in the rocking chair watching videos on youtube and playing sudoku on my phone, trying to will myself towards the bathroom to begin the cold shower. Eventually duty and responsibility would trump my desire to be warm and i would gather my clothes and toiletries and prepare to take a shower. Once inside the bathroom i would again stand and procrastinate, psyching myself up for the experience. It would be over soon. Quick shower. Quick shower. I would stand in front of the space heater one last time, soaking in its warmth. When my skin felt it might burn if i lingered any longer i would turn the knob, foot wrapped in ace bandage, and step into the shower. The water was always a stark wake up call. If i had been drowsy i wasn’t any longer. I shampooed every other day so some days the shower just involved soaping, rinsing, and leaving the dratted freezing stall. Other days i had to actually shampoo and condition my hair, turning the water on briefly to rinse each detergent away. When i was finished with the water i could step out of the stall and back into the warmth of the space heater where all would be well again, but during cold weather, nothing good happened in that freezing cold shower stall. Getting myself washed and dressed in the morning became quite the accomplishment. Come sunrise, when i was clean, the chores were done, the animals handled, lunch packed, wearing shoes and putting gas in the car to drive to town in my uniform and name tag, i felt i had already run a marathon and won. I looked forward to winter as a needed break from the wasps, mosquitos, scorpions, and grasshoppers. However, this winter would be just as fraught with difficulty as the spring and summer had been. I told myself there was nothing to be done but keep moving forward and wait for better times. My foot would heal. Covid would likely eventually mutate into something with a different host target, set of symptoms, or level of severity, though it would probably take years, and one day i’d have a hefty salary again and i’d buy the best hot water heater i could find and pay home depot to deliver it and take the old one away. I’d have to clean the house for that occasion so the delivery crew didn’t witness the usual tooth paste grime in the sink, dog hair on the floor, and dust over everything. I frowned at the thought, but it didn’t immediately matter…that would be a task for another year. For now, i’d just have to keep getting up early and using the space heater as a bribe to hop in. I felt like i’d read somewhere that kids in iceland were sent out in the dead of winter in their bathing suits for 15 minutes of recess per day in order to strengthen their immune systems by exposing them to extreme cold in short bursts. I wondered if this winter would strengthen my immune system. It would be a nice side effect, i had to admit.

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