Friday, January 25, 2013

Fifteen Degrees of Separation

Fifteen degrees of bitter cold on the Fahrenheit scale. If not for the fact that my livelihood depends upon a trudging commute to the Library of Congress to do research on behalf of my longtime employer, I would not have separated myself from my toasty flannel sheets, down comforter and electric blanket. But alas, duty called.

Thankfully, snow was not forecast until the following afternoon and the snow already on the ground from a previous storm barely rose a half inch over my comfortable Pink & Pepper boots. A pale sun offered wan cheer even as it provided no warmth. All I would have to contend with is bitter cold, heightened by a raw wind which lowered the wind-chill (feels-like) temperature to around five degrees Fahrenheit, according to news reports that morning. Great. Just great.

Such frigidity called for my warmest sweater, a tightly knit turtleneck with soutache braid-work scrolling across the yoke by venerable ski-wear maker Meister ( which my best friend’s parents, Joyce and Lyle, bought me for Christmas more than a dozen years ago. Normally too warm a garment to wear in any but the cruelest weather, it would be perfect for my trek across the snowy parking lot at the subway station, awaiting the train on a raised, outdoor platform, and for hiking up the wind-tunnel-like 324-step escalator at the nation’s capitol and across the street to the great Congressional Library and its lengthy underground passageways to the Business and Science room in the Adams building.

For added warmth, I slipped a long-sleeved, ribbed-knit Faded Glory Tee beneath the sweater and layered long-johns from Recreational Equipment, Inc.(REI) beneath my boot-cut Levi’s Perfectly Slimming jeans. I chose frosty, silvered leaves for my ears and neck from Fire & Ice Jewelers of Baltimore (, the set a birthday gift last fall from my dear friends, Robert and Jan, and wrapped a thick, textural scarf of red and black wool around my collar.

Out I went, into the chill. As others hunched in heavy wool overcoats and quilted bomber jackets, I strode confidently sans outerwear, my red sweater and black jeans (and the layers beneath them) providing plenty of warmth, along with my brisk pace. Though the temperature never rose above 20 degrees, it was actually a beautiful day to be outside. Even a pallid sun is welcome in such a wintry clime.

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