IMG_4246There are very few places on the planet where the temperature is ideal for human habitation all year long. Where is it 70-75 F degrees every day – Hawaii perhaps? For most of us, we have seasons where we must adapt to times of extreme cold or heat. So you pick your poison, so to speak, depending on where you choose to live.

IMG_4247Living all my life in New England, I guess you could say that I have ‘adapted’ to cold winters and the occasional heat wave in summer. Although humans have used fire for eons to stay warm, it is only with the introduction of central heating and cooling, that human population has expanded to many places that were uninhabitable except for a hardy few. As long as our exposure to the elements is buffered, we can put up with periods of extreme temperatures.

Last night the windchill was in the minus 20s F. I was so grateful to have a warm house, made all the more toasty by a wood stove, and a warm bed to snuggle into as the wind buffeted the windows.

When I do go outside, it takes several minutes to ‘suit up.’ Heavy, felt-lined boots are essential as far as I am concerned. Cold feet, hands or head spell major discomfort. Thick scarf doubled around my neck, two layers of mittens, down coat to below the knees and wool hat and I am good to go. IMG_4330If the snow is deeper than a foot, I strap on gaiters to protect my lower legs from the snow that will cling and melt, making my pants freezing cold. If the conditions are icy and dangerous for walking, I strap ice grippers, a combo of coiled wire and flexible rubber, to the bottoms of my boots to assist me in staying on my feet. I’ll never win a fashion contest, but I’ll choose comfort over looks any day.

Some days it feels like too much to do just to get out the door, but what is the alternative? Stay inside all winter? Not a chance! Occasionally, I long for the ease of walking straight outside free of the trappings, but I do that for half the year and that time will come again soon enough.

IMG_4297I often think of folks that live in colder places and wonder at their stoic capacity to deal with negative double digits F where your breath freezes in your nostrils! I’ve seen a video from Alaska where a cup of steaming coffee thrown into the air freezes before it hits the ground. It may get cold here, but never like that, thank you!

On the flip side is extreme heat – the American Southwest in summer for example – 113 degrees F day after day – oh, ouch on that! Or the discomfort of heavy humidity in the Southeastern US. How do they do it, I wonder? You adapt to your surroundings. We all do or we move.

So even though I may dream about life in a warmer climate that doesn’t involve shoveling snow or dealing with freezing rain, I am adapted to New England and will put up with a bit of seasonal discomfort in order to experience all that the four seasons have to offer in their elemental variety.


About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
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72 Responses to Adaptation

  1. Geraldine says:

    I love winter and I loved your photos.Keep warm.😀😀

  2. It is so true… We all adapt to our surroundings. Great seeing you in the picture! 🙂

  3. Trini Lind says:

    I like the cold. In Norway it gets super cold in Winter, but I prefer that to the super hot Indian summers. Here in Calcutta we had 43 degrees Celsius last summer, and that is just too much for me. I mean, unless you have an AC there is just nothing you can do when it is hot. When it’s cold you can always put on loads of clothes, start fires and wrap yourself in blankets. So I would choose super cold any day over super hot! 🙂

  4. Lovely photos and thoughts. I’ve lived most of my life in a region of Texas that is either part of the Southwest or part of the Great Plains, or perhaps both, depending on who you talk to — one of those places you mentioned that has endless 100F+ days. For those of us who live here it really doesn’t seem that bad, just as the cold doesn’t really matter to those who live in the north and northeast. I don’t run around on the asphalt with bare feet in the summer, but I don’t mind being busy outside. My husband grew up in western New York, south of Buffalo, so he’s one of those cold climate people. He suffers down here in the summer, but he has slowly adapted over the years. He moves the AC down in the summer when I’m not looking, I move the heat up in the winter when he’s not looking! As you mentioned, we just have to adapt to where we happen to be at any given time.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      With folks moving around as much as they do, there are so many having to adapt to different climates. It would make an interesting physiological study.
      Today it is snowing again, and it is probably warm and springlike down there for you!

  5. Val Boyko says:

    I’m visiting in Albany this weekend! … Now I know what you’re talking about Eliza!

  6. Wonderful photos! I especially like your self portrait, and your photo of the creek. At least you have a system to deal with the cold. I ventured out for the first time in a while today, and didn’t dress warmly enough. But we have nothing on the ground, either- just the dratted wind howling still. Glad you’re staying warm 😉 WG

  7. Maria F. says:

    You have just described something I have never experienced. I only saw snow in North Caroilna when I was in college there and believe me, it snowed hardly 6-8 inches every year.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      There is a vast spectrum of weather, isn’t there? The deepest our snow has ever been in my memory is about 4 ft. (it settles/melts). Where my son lives in CA mtns. they get 15 ft. easily. Way too much for me!

  8. cindy knoke says:

    It looks utterly beauitful!

  9. I agree with you . . . winters are tough, but couldn’t imagine anywhere else!

  10. mk says:

    Eliza, you look so cute in your puffy outfit — not a trace of cold misery to be seen. Kudos!

    Childhood in Arizona: lying in a bathing suit on the floor directly under the swamp cooler vent; pressing footprints into soft asphalt blacktop; crispy tumbleweeds blowing into massive piles 100′ square and 6′ high formed the perfect matrix for whacking out warrens and pretending we lived underground; watching old movies in a darkened room in the middle of the day but playing out in the street until 10pm because it was finally cool enough.
    The only really good things: magnificent sunsets and exciting lightening storms.
    Moving from Arizona to California in August: needing to wear a sweater for that first summer.
    Returning to Arizona as a young adult: wrapping your hand in your blouse just long enough to yank the car door open; driving with your fingernails; nosebleeds & migraines.

    I think that if I had to choose between extremely hot dry summers or cold and snowy winters, I would choose winters. And the beauty of your winters is a delight for me to see.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      I loved hearing about your childhood memories of the heat. When I was 12 we moved from the cooler hills to the warm valley and that first summer I spent many days in the basement and evening out riding my bike around the suburb development we had moved to. I was so miserable! I missed my friends, the countryside and the lake we used to swim in. Life changing!
      19 years later I moved back to these hills and don’t intend to leave ever!

      • mk says:

        Moving is so tough on kids! I would imagine also that while you get four actual seasons in both places, it’s easier to get close to the further you are from the city. Four seasons is something I’ve always longed for.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Maybe you and A. should rent a place for a year just to experience it – although I don’t think P. would be all that thrilled!

  11. Treah says:

    Winter is no doubt a beautiful season, but isn’t it grand that the earth is noticeably tilting back towards summer?! Give me LIGHT!

  12. Robin says:

    I love your winter outfit. I have a similar one although I don’t need it here. People from here might appreciate it, though, as they seem to think it’s cold this winter. It doesn’t seem all that cold to me (even when it dips below freezing as it has the past two days or so). I felt the same way about winter in northeast Ohio (where we usually got 100+ inches of snow every year thanks to Lake Erie) when it comes to getting outdoors. I went out every day because I didn’t like the alternative of shutting myself away for a good chunk of the year. I loved the snow, and even the ice. As for the humidity of the southeast, I deal with it by shutting myself indoors in the air conditioning because I haven’t quite adapted yet. I force myself out the door every day so maybe someday I will adapt to that too. Mostly, I languish in the heat. lol!

    Your snow is beautiful. 🙂

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you, Robin. Ohio has pretty extreme weather, both hot and cold.
      My sister has lived in FL, GA & SC – impossible in the summer without AC. Maybe when we are REALLY old and feel chilly all the time, we’d appreciate the heat, until then, I for one am staying out of it!

      • Robin says:

        I’ve lived in GA & SC, too. Ugh. We didn’t have AC when we lived in Atlanta, GA. Ugh, ugh, ugh. We did have a whole-house (or attic) fan which kept the air moving while we were melting.

        I never thought I’d end up south of the Mason-Dixon Line again. I keep hearing about the myth of feeling chilly all the time, but it hasn’t happened yet. I guess that means I’m not REALLY old yet. 😀

      • Eliza Waters says:

        When we have 90 degree days, I lay so low that nothing gets done. I can’t imagine how a whole summer of it would look like – lol!
        I love that you called being chilly a ‘myth’ – so much of what we accept isn’t really THE truth, but a possibility. So glad you brought awareness to that!

  13. Seasonal discomfort is definitely what we are experiencing with the snowfall this year and where to put it. 🙂 I haven’t taken my Yaktrax off my boots in weeks.

  14. wspines says:

    I have adapted to New England also and I cannot take the heat I would like a break from the below zero temps. More snow coming we will bring in more wood and sit by our windows and watch. It sure is beautiful.

  15. polly3yr says:

    Here in the northern Adirondacks, I practically LIVE in my snowshoes…it’s the only way to trek to my little “pond” in the woods…and after tramping over three stone fences, each about a half-mile apart, through 4-5 foot snowfall and drifts, to three overgrown Apple orchards (easier to crawl through on hands and knees than to try to bushwhack through), and a dastardly, and HUGE, overgrown patch of red-winged dogwood whose branches aim at you from all possible angles…well, about an hour later I come to what is actually a natural spring which never freezes no matter how far below zero…so naturally, after all that hard work and huffing and puffing just to get there, I prefer to think of it as a rather large and impressive “pond”…but I know the Powers That Be forgive me for that mental exaggeration. I snowshoe to my pond as often as I can all winter long…and though I’m not a religious person, I end up thinking the most prayerful thoughts of wonder, appreciation and gratitude while sitting there (or squatting in the surrounding snow holding on for dear life lest I slide into the water). Sorry to go on and on…but I just wanted to say I understand the feeling of being drawn to the outdoors even in the cold and snow. A walk in the woods in the “dead” of winter is anything but, don’t you think?

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Oh, so true, Polly, it is very much alive out there. The pristine beauty of fresh snow, the fresh air, the rosy cheeks – so worth the trek. I work up quite a sweat on snowshoes despite the low temps.
      Thanks for sharing with me about your spring – it sounds lovely and peaceful. I, too, connect deeply with nature and couldn’t imagine not being out in it for my daily constitutional. I appreciate your stopping by today!

  16. I love reading how you “suit up”. You go!!

  17. smilecalm says:

    looks good on you
    especially knowing
    you know how
    to keep warm 🙂

  18. Murtagh's Meadow says:

    There is a saying that there is no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing. It looks like you are well wrapped up. Lovely wintery photos:)

  19. Tough to take pictures with those mittens on, Eliza! I like what Murtagh’s Meadow said above. I feel the same way when the heat is on down here in Virginia. You can only take so much off! Since moving here, I have marveled at how people survived without AC in the summers because to me, the heat is unbearable. To a (wo)man, they say “we didn’t know any better.” Houses had whole house fans, they wore loose clothes, they didn’t cook after nine in the morning, they slept on sleeping porches….in short, they adapted, right? Good post, Eliza!!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you, Barbara. I love the idea of a sleeping porch. When I was young I slept outside without netting, I must have been a feast for the mosquitoes, but I don’t remember that part. When I think of novels I’ve read about the South, things went slowly in summer. A lot of sitting around, sipping cool drinks in the shade and fanning with hats and hand-held fans. Must have had great skin, sweat cleans and detoxifies – lol!

      • My older friends, women near 80, do talk about things much as you describe. And always lots of sweet tea. Down here when you’re asked if you’d like some tea, the default is iced tea. You have to specify if you want it hot. And they drink it year round. I do too now, come to think of it.

  20. Robbie says:

    Oh Eliza seeing you all bundled up reminds me of the movie “Christmas Story” where Alfie’s brother is wrapped up tight by the mother to walk to school-lol. I lived in Minnesota when I was a kid and we walked to school just like that kid. Our mother’s would stuff us in our suits and wrap us just as stiff as his little brother! LOL. I live in central illinois now + it is just enough difference that we miss a lot of the heavy snow-but I could relate to your story! No air frozen coffee here:-), but cold enough that you might die if you are not bundled up and are stranded some nights in the negatives!
    Love your post + I have to admit it is this time of year that I ponder-hmm-maybe being in a warmer place might be interesting for I could garden all season…but then, I think…hmmm…but I can grow kale and it stands taller than most of my snow-I can eat in winter!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      LOL – some days it feels like I am all rolled up like a sausage! We may fantasize escaping winter, but the seasons pass soon enough and the diversity of garden plants favoring the north is reward for putting up with the cold. Kale is one of them!

  21. Ann Koplow says:

    I am sick of winters in New England (I’ve been here my entire long life) but I still loved this post!

  22. LadyPinkRose says:

    So enjoyed this post and all your photos, Eliza. It is SO good to see YOU, my fav image of all. Stay warm, my friend. According to some of my cats who have begun to molt, Spring is coming soon. (((HUGS))) Amy

  23. Heather says:

    I relate to this so strongly I could have written it myself! Only I tend to have mittens on only when I’m skiing. Otherwise, I stick to fairly thin fingerless gloves that have a mitten top that flips over. If it’s too windy, hands stay in pockets. I’d add my ears to your list of things that must stay warm for comfort. I can’t stand to have cold ears.
    I’ve lived in Florida (Miami) and Georgia (north of Atlanta), and I still prefer northern Michigan. Like you, I prefer the four seasons, even if we must dig deep into our cores to find that hardiness to get us through. Cheers for the remainder of winter! Spring will be sweet when it comes 🙂

  24. I love ALL of your photos! The first one on this post is beyond STUNNING! Snow frosting melting into pools of water! The swirls –I just LOVE it! It is PERFECT, Eliza! Living in Wisconsin most of my life, except for a few brief years in Kenya, I appreciate your thoughts on the snow and cold…I agree with you that we are blessed with the adaptation things that came about— we experience such loveliness with the winter snow, despite the cold.

  25. Polly3yr says:

    I have a tip to share: I bought a pair of zip-up winter boots at a garage sale on the cheap…brought them home, put them on, and stepped into my snowshoes. Strapped them on, buckled them up, and off I went. When I got home, I simply unzipped those boots and stepped out– hassle-free! I just leave the boots strapped and buckled into my snowshoes, and come time to take off into the snow again, I just bend over quickly, zip up the boots and go–no more putting my snowshoes on and taking them off every time I go!! SO much easier on this 64-year-old back of mine 🙂

  26. Great post, Eliza.

    I saw a documentary on Alaska and the people who “rough it” in the far north. No electricity. Heat from wood only. Caribou and moose their typical meals. Darkness half the year. And temps to 70 below are typical.

    I admire these folks’ determination and will power, their dedication to a simpler life. Not sure I could go to that extreme, though. :\

  27. There is great beauty to be found in winter, and I have pondered this matter quite a bit. After being relocated here from a milder climate many years ago and somehow never managed to return, I have tried to convince myself to embrace this. Whenever I say to myself, “Relax! This is home!” I feel something inside me shrivel up in despair. As I type this, wind is howling, my feet are to the radiator and a blanket is around my shoulders and I know I must follow my heart OUT OF HERE!!!
    But you have my admiration 🙂

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Melissa. It is a matter of taking one day at a time and staying close to the wood stove! Actually better since I’ve become older (time does speed up!) 🙂 Eckhard Tolle helped me overcome my resistance and improve my acceptance of ‘what is.’ Always a work in progress!
      Where are you now vs. originally?

      • I’m in Northern Illinois, from Northern California. I went form Redwoods in the backyard to a land of prairie. It was an adjustment, I can tell you! I’ve learned to love the natural world here, and have been involved with ecological restoration and monitoring for nearly 40 years (time does speed up!) …and I’ve read Eckhard Tolle too. I think for me, though, my heart wants what it want. Now all I have to do is figure out how to buy a house out there on an artist’s income! 🙂

      • Eliza Waters says:

        A tall order, I’m afraid! CA is sooo expensive! My son lives in Truckee and found a good fixer-upper when the market was down 3 yrs. ago. It was a great and unusual find. Wish there were more of them, but the market has climbed back up. But there is always hope – hang onto it!

  28. Kathy Sturr says:

    I enjoyed reading a post on The Fettered Fox about “lettuce weather.” That is the perfect weather and rarely obtainable year round in one place. Last evening we had a rainy windy storm here – reminded me of home ha ha! I will take a cozy wood stove over chilly air conditioning any day! (But I prefer “lettuce weather”.) Oh, you have reminded me of the Winter drudgery – getting dressed – shoveling – scraping off the car. So many steps to get out the door and on your way! Sounds like you have the routine down to a science, though, Eliza. One day you will migrate and have the best of both worlds, I’m certain! I’m ready to come home – miss it! But home’s not ready for me ha ha.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      I, too, am quite fond of ‘lettuce weather.’ Perfect for working outside. But I suppose it doesn’t work so well for tomatoes and peppers!
      Glad you were reminded of why you are in FL – migration is a great idea. It is my dream. 😉

  29. Ein schönes Wochenende. Freundliche Grüße,Wolfgang

  30. dorannrule says:

    I don’t know how I missed this one. This March storm in Virginia is nothing compared to what you adapt to in a New England winter – especially this winter! I love your post and your outfit too. 🙂

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Aw, thanks Dor. I know you have good fashion sense 🙂 Many wouldn’t go out in public dressed like me, but up here I have lots of company, esp. this bitterly cold winter! 😉

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