For the second time this week, we woke up to single-digit temperatures. Now, that’s not a big deal if you live in many parts of the country. But here? In East Tennessee? It’s notable.
In Nepal, the term for cold is chiso (cheee-so) and the word for very is cha. All of our babes from Phin on down learned these words first, before the English, as we worked to weave a new language into our family rhythm. So it is that now, as we press our hands to the glass counting the birds eagerly visiting our full feeders, we whisper to one another, “Chiso! Chiso cha!”
There have been relatively few hours fit for outside play. Oh, we’ve managed some here and there. A few minutes at a time, bundled like Ralphie’s little brother Randy from A Christmas Story. But the Norwegian saying is true: “There’s no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Well, our clothing is woefully inappropriate. A pair of thin knit gloves and a couple pairs of socks under rubber farm boots is nothing against temps in the teens. Ask us to ride out a month in the nineties and we’ve got you covered. But this? This is out of our league and we know it.
So we drink tea. We read books. We play board games. We write. We knit. We drag out the Legos, build for a while, grow tired of them and put them away, then drag them back out again an hour later.
We color— endlessly, it seems. My kitchen table has been cluttered with pencils and crayons and paper and books for a solid week. Usually, these things are confined to our craft area but— you guessed it— it’s too chilly out there, so the kitchen, where the oven is so often baking bread and the kettle is usually boiling on the stove top, will have to suffice.
There have been flurries nearly daily, but no accumulated snow. Patches of ice have formed in the meantime, though, and stayed. The younger kids have mapped them out, and in the scarce moments of outside play they’ve declared them mini-ice rinks. No one’s gotten hurt— yet— but I am not sure how long the streak will hold.
Life, of course, has to go on in this bleak, frozen world. It always does. There are still chickens and rabbits to keep fed, watered, and relatively warm, and a hundred other small things that have due dates pressing. It may be chiso cha, but that doesn’t mean much in the big picture. Soon enough, we’ll be pulling out the opposite Nepali phrase: tato cha (very hot) But that, at least, will be a known quantity!