Popping tires, frozen pipes, closed schools, temperatures so low that the mailman won’t come. Hospitals are treating cases of frostbite. The tarmac equipment at the airport has turned balky. When an old man wrapped in a blanket hobbles across a busy road and waves at cars, drivers stop and give him what they can – money, food, a ride to a shelter.
That’s what it is for us Minnesotans to be trapped inside a polar vortex today. We have a reputation for toughness, but with temperatures nearing 30 below in the Twin Cities, we’re feeling tested. Thirty below is normal for January in the Arctic. We have to reach back more than a century — to 1887 – to find a record low today’s won’t beat.
Those of us with working furnaces and no place to go can find a kind of pleasure in the forced indolence. There is hot tea, a hot bath, messages of sympathy from distant friends. There are recipes for pot roast and macaroni and cheese – the homemade kind made with whole milk and three kinds of cheese. We have books to read, photos to organize and a clear view of a sun-shot world glittering with frost and chimneys chugging out wisps of steam.
Tomorrow the temperature will rise to 2 below and climb to 44 above by Sunday. Pipes will be thawed, machinery humming. And this rare, flash-frozen stasis in our lives will be gone.