BY MITCH MODE
Special to the Star Journal
I’ve been fighting a cold. It’s not a big deal. I don’t want to sound whiney. My nose is stuffy; I feel clumsy; I nod off in the chair at night, wake with a neck-snapping jerk, think to myself, “It must be 10, 10:30 at least.” Look at the clock; 8:30.
I go to bed early, swallow mystery pills that Sally assures me will send a cold packing, eat hot soup and drink liquids. It’s not real serious, just annoying. There’s some nasty stuff going around, variations on the flu that’ll knock you into next week and leave you pale and wasted and not enjoying life very much. That’s serious. What I’ve got is just a niggling little thing.
I blame the weather. I don’t blame the weather for much but I blame it for my cold. It was the thaw over the past two weeks, that ugly January Thaw that came early and stayed late. Temperatures above freezing, rain, snow turning gray; gloom and doom ruled the land.
“If I’m fighting some ailment, achy muscles, a cold, some bug or whatever, I go skiing. I bundle up good, put on an extra layer of insulation, and then I ski.” ~Mitch Mode
At long last it turned cold and things were normal except for the streets and sidewalks; they resembled a glacier. I walk to work on glazed walkways and think to myself that people my age fall and break hips and are never the same again. This does not improve my mood or my confidence.
But that’s not what I blame my cold on. No, I contend, and have for decades, that winter weather with temperatures in the high 20s and 30s is just not any good for a body. You often get humidity along with the rising temperatures, sometimes some fog, and it all just settles like some otherworldly miasma. And it makes you sick.
Or so I believe. I have no facts to back this. I don’t need them. Cold winter weather? Ten above, zero, below zero: Nobody gets colds or flu then. It’s the thaw that gets you.
I once read something to the effect that more people do in fact get colds during times of warmer winter weather but that was based on the fact that in moderate temperatures people are more likely to go out and mingle. And if they have a cold or flu they pass it along. In bitter cold, so the study went, people who are under the weather stay home and don’t mix.
Maybe that’s true. I prefer to think that cold weather, hard January cold, kills germs, and warmish, damp weather encourages their growth.
So I blame the thaw for my little cold.
I also blame the thaw for the fact I wasn’t able to do much to fight my cold. Short reason; the warm weather messed up the ski trails and so I was not able to get out and ski. And why, you might certainly ask, does that matter? Another of my truths: Cross country skiing can cure what ails you. Period.
There is nothing to back this up either, understand. No facts. I still take it as gospel, a rock solid foundation on which to enjoy better health in the winter.
If I’m fighting some ailment, achy muscles, a cold, some bug or whatever, I go skiing. I bundle up good, put on an extra layer of insulation, and then I ski, nice and easy. I work up a good sweat. I do not ski fast. I do not ski long. I just ski. Warm weather or cold, I just ski.
Then I go home, take a hot shower, have some soup and take a nap. Works every time!
I think it’s best with the old time classic technique; skating doesn’t have the restorative power. Classic skiing, kick and glide, letting the muscles stretch and work, that’s the ticket. Ask most any skier, I think they’ll agree.
The past two weeks, what with the thaw, skiing was not an option. I worked in the wood shop building drawers for kitchen cabinets and breathing in sawdust. It did not do me much good in terms of fighting my cold. Wood work and hot soup just doesn’t cut it compared to skiing.
So I blame the weather, both for bringing on the cold and for me not being able to do much about it.
So it goes.
This week we got some snow, not much but enough. The ski trails were buffed up; the temperature was in the high teens. Just right!
I dressed the way I normally do then added another layer on top. I slid a neck gaiter to cover my throat and hold in the heat. Then I went skiing. Sally told me not to ski too long and I lied and said I would keep it easy.
I was chilled at the start. Ten minutes in the heat was building and it was as it should be. It was cloudy and breezy but after half an hour the sun started to break through. The snow was fresh and white and beautiful. I skied for an hour, paused, then kept on. I did not ski fast. I skied steady and easy and let the heat build.
The woods to the sides of the trail were freshened with the new snow; shadows and drifts gave it a look that was somehow dreamlike as if I had been set down in a new place far from home. But familiar; I’d been there before. I saw tracks, wolf or coyote, fresh in the snow. One of them was large and I leaned toward wolf versus coyote but I don’t know enough to be certain.
I skied for two hours and I was tired by the end. I drove home and heated up some soup and sat at the table and ate it. It was very good. Then I took a long, hot shower. I told Sally I felt better already.
Cold weather to kill the germs and time on skis, a cure for what ails you as January slides behind us and February looms large.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800.