. . . And an Even Colder Dawn

And then it really got cold!

When the sun set on Monday evening, the temperatures dropped, and a howling wind began to blow. The forecasts were calling for temperatures well below freezing, along with wind chills that would make it feel much, much colder. When I got up on Tuesday morning, the thermometer on our front porch registered about -10 F (-23 C).

My car is getting older, and I didn't want to risk taking it out in such extreme conditions, so I bundled up warmly and took the bus to work instead. What did I wear? Well, the usual "foundation garments," as my mother might call them, and on top of that, Duofold long underwear, fleece-lined Woolrich pants, two pairs of huge wool socks, boots, turtleneck, sweater, wind-stopper vest, huge Woolrich lined coat, two pairs of gloves, balaclava . . .

My husband, watching the laborious process of me getting bundled up, laughed and told me it felt like he was watching me get ready for a backpacking trip that he wouldn't, for once, be accompanying me on. (That's something else you need to remember this time of year. The "getting dressed" part of the morning might take at least 10 minutes, just for all those layers!)

And, by the way, my husband and I do occasionally winter backpack, but not even hardy souls such as ourselves would be foolish enough to backpack in such weather. My personal record for sleeping out in cold weather is 7 degrees F (-14 C), without a tent, which I set 20 years ago in the Quehanna Wild Area. Crawling out of the sleeping bag at that temperature wasn't very much fun, and I wouldn't recommend it to most parties, to be honest. And just one sidebar: the thing they don't tell you about winter backpacking is how quickly you'll get dehydrated, so drink plenty of liquids! But I digress . . .

And then, fully bundled up, I walked in darkness to the bus stop, and stood for about 10 minutes waiting for the bus. Breathing in, breathing out, trying to think warm thoughts. And then the bus came, and I was never so glad to see it. From the frigid outdoors into the relative warmth of the bus. Ahh! Where I happily finished the hot cup of coffee my husband had handed me just before I left. Plugged in some tunes. Jammed out.

Aside from the extra time it takes, I truly don't mind riding the bus because the route is so beautiful. We go through backroads, along farmers' fields, through the trees. I always see deer. And from the bus windows, I get to watch the sun rise. And of course I take pictures. They don't usually turn out very well because of the reflections in the windows, the crud on the windows themselves, the condensation and general fogginess, and the motion of the bus (lurch to the left! lurch to the right!), but I try. I can't help myself.

And on this particular morning, the sun was, indeed, rising. And it was a cold, cold fire. All light, no heat. We traveled through campus, and I watched the sky turn pink. Then headed out Park Ave. to Innovation Park, where our offices are located, and finally, I caught my first glimpse of the sun.

Now, this shot is not as crisp as I would usually like it to be. It is a shot taken through a dirty bus window while the bus was in motion. I was close to the glass, trying to get a good view but not let my breath make more condensation on the window. Pull out from the hospital. Snap! Turn right onto Park Ave. Snap! And then Mount Nittany on my right, and . . . Snap! So this picture is my photo for the day.

When I showed this picture to my husband that evening, he laughed and told me that it looked like the place where the world began. I am immensely fond of some of the elements you can see in this picture: Mount Nittany on the left. In the center of the picture, the rising sun, and beneath it the little road that leads to Millbrook Marsh, one of my favorite early-morning haunts. In the distance, Tussey Mountain. And even in the far, far distance to the left, the Seven Mountains, and beyond them, the sunny, wide little valley where I was born.

This is home to me, a place I love best of all. Welcome to winter in central Pennsylvania. Dawn breaks, on a day colder than anything we've experienced in the past 20 years. There are the mountains, the trees, with just a bit of snow around the edges, and above it all, the rising of a cold, cold sun.

The song: Well, listen to the wind blow, watch the sunrise . . . Fleetwood Mac, with The Chain. Two versions, both live: 1979, and 1997. Enjoy!

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