A cold that’s so cold it slaps you in the face

How cold is -30 Celsius? It’s so cold that when you throw boiling water in the air, it instantly crystallizes as my niece Siobhan demonstrated during our visit to Canmore, Alberta the week before Christmas.

There’s cold and then there’s cold.
 
Where I live in Guelph, Ontario, it can get down to -10 Celsius in January and February. To me, that’s cold. With some wind, it can feel like about -20, which is serious cold. 
 
On those -20 with the wind-chill mornings, I have to drag our boxer dog Freddie off the front porch. Poor fellow. I can’t help but think the piddly fleece-lined coat we got him is close to useless. On these mornings, he speed walks about 50 feet, does his business, and then gives me a pathetic look that says, ‘if you love me, you’ll take me home now!’
 
Like many dog owners, I view Freddie as if he were child. Actually, I anthropomorphize animals in general; when it’s serious cold, I cannot understand how dogs, bunnies, coyotes, or birds survive. They live outside 24/7! In this?
 
But there’s serious cold and then there’s extreme-weather-alert-better-check-the-date-of-that-last-furnace-tune-up cold. I’m talking straight up -30 cold that slaps me in the face and says: ‘Can you handle me? I’m the real thing pal.’
 
This is cold that makes me wonder if my nose will fall off and whether my eyelids will fuse together permanently.
 
This is the cold we experienced in Canmore, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies, for a little holiday the week before Christmas with my sister and her family.
 
With immaculate timing, upon our arrival, the mercury dove to extreme-alert territory. Rather than ski magnificent Lake Louise, we played indoor simulator golf where the only cold we experienced came in pint glasses.
 
I’m puzzled that weather alerts are required when it’s -30. I mean, after poking your head out the door, isn’t it fairly obvious that you’d have to be a wingnut to go for a run.
 
Well, I was a one of those wingnuts for about 30 years. Like many runners, I felt that if I took two days off, I would turn into a blob incapable of negotiating stairs without risking a coronary.
 
It’s addiction plain and simple, of which I have plenty, along with strong aversions.
 
This week posed one hell of a challenge because I’ve been averse to cold for most of my life.
 
I think it stems from standing at bus stops in suburban London as a teenager without a toque and being woefully underdressed for the weather. A toque would have destroyed the wondrous poofy volume that the morning’s shampoo had bestowed upon my shoulder-length blonde hair.

Exposed to the penetrating winds, there were times I was sure that I would perish. In desperation, I imagined that if I closed my eyes, a bus would magically appear when I re-opened them. It never worked, but somehow I’m still here.
 
My aversion to cold is similar to the visceral resistance that I feel in my gut when my wife suggests a domestic activity that takes an extra level of effort such as, for example, cleaning our carpets. 
 
Despite feeling like I’d rather stick needles in my eyes, eventually I find myself moving furniture, returning from the grocery store with the carpet cleaning gear and then, miraculously, the job is done. Somehow, I don’t die from the carpet cleaning experience, and, as a bonus, I rather admire our carpets.
 
In Canmore, I discovered that it’s weirdly the same deal with -30 extreme-alert cold. All week I boldly ventured out with my family in an old green canvas parka for walks around the town of Canmore and the surrounding trails. 
 
It was interesting. I noticed some, er, cool things. On our walks, I become aware that I have lips. They usually go around unnoticed but out here my lips felt plump and heavy; I imagined I resemble Geena Davis in her heavy Botox period. My eyebrows turned into white squiggles, and my boots make a sound as if I were ripping a big bandage off the trodden snow. 
 
As I walked through sweetly silent spruce forests, I felt like ice crystals were swarming me and the mountains floated above us like enormous ghosts.
 
Once indoors, I feel an odd sense of pride that I made an extra level of effort to go outside, not for a chore, but because … I wanted to. I also love that deliciously painful but enlivening feeling when blood re-introduces itself to my fingers, toes, and face.
 
In moments like these, I feel transformed, freed from my some of my aversions and compulsions, momentarily at least. I realize once again that I haven’t died. In fact, I feel more alive.

If you’ve ever wanted to check out what coaching could do for you, email me at tim@oconnorgolf.ca about a 30-minute complimentary coaching session.

In early 2023, I’ll be coaching indoors at the new Golf House that’s opening in the north end of Guelph. I’ll keep you posted.

Check out episode #217 of the Swing Thoughts podcast, as Howard Glassman and I learn how Scottish professional Kendal McWade re-discovered joy in playing the game and teaching golf by playing more instinctively. 

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!

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