“It’s so cold, my hands are on fire,” Montana said as he watched his voice vanish into the January air. We were following a trail marked by deer that led down to the creek where the ice had not quite frozen over. The watering hole had been recently visited since the tracks were visible and there had been snowfall the night before. The evening sun gave no heat as we tracked west back to the cabin. I had been walking away from the idea of warmth since sunset and I knew Montana had been chasing it; however his words were as crisp as the morning frost and right now I needed that kind of comfort. “With all hope, Montana, we shall arrive before the sun,” I replied.
That morning’s headlines read “Winter to be Warmer.” It was November and I could’ve sworn the leaves had not yet changed colors. I’ve never worn red in my life and the heat from the crimson leaves may have had my blood boiling. I searched the paper for an explanation.
Higher temperature is what makes us pleasant.
A growth that soon will swallow the birds.
An average earth has been changing.
On the ground we are vegetation.
Seven years until spring arrives.
Pollution is the adaptation.
Turning are the scientists.
Dropping while we are
A couple of inches
Montana was born and raised in southern California. His parents named him Montana
somewhere in the trend of naming children after states—stream of Dakotas and
Carolinas. He had never been to that particular state and had never been anywhere cold
for that matter. In other words, the color white described the beach sand, the clouds, hot
in the southern sun. That’s why we went on this exploration; it was an opportunity to show him my understanding—my acquaintance—with the color white.
“So how far away is the cabin?” asked Montana, resting under an evergreen half buried in snow. I mentioned to him when we met that I knew a place, by a cabin, that resembled the sublimity of the white California. The awful beauty, nested in the north, halfway across the country. Yet, temperature has nothing to do with the visual; one cannot feel cold or hot in the breeze of scenic emotion. “I feel it’s this way,” I said, standing on a rock, covered in a cloud of snow.
The National Academy of Sciences has declared that the Earth’s surface temperature has risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past century. The evidence is getting stronger that most of the warming in the past fifty years is attributable to human activities. Such activities have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the buildup of greenhouse gases.
Energy from the sun beats the surface of the earth, controlling the weather and climate; all the while, the earth takes that energy and radiates it back into space. Atmospheric greenhouse gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide trap the outgoing energy retaining beat, working the same way as glass panels do in a greenhouse. However, without this natural greenhouse effect, the temperatures would drop and life as we know it would not exist nor be possible.
-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
“The sea is cold, but contains the hottest blood of all.”
-Captain Bligh, Cold Sea 1789
Said to have been the words he spoke to his castaways while on a voyage across the South Paciﬁc Ocean, Bligh and seventeen others traveled 3,000 miles trying to survive in a twenty-foot open boat.
When Montana gets nervous he does the most extraordinary thing. He had every right to be nervous: it was well past sundown and we still had a long way to go, that is, if we were going in the right direction. Montana starts talking completely in the past tense, as if the future had already happened.
“The water seemed colder in autumn; the waves looked smaller from the cabin.” It’s hard to notice at first as he speaks mostly about the weather earlier in the day. “The snow just never stopped falling; the wind just never let up.”
Surely enough, it was colder now, but it’s interesting how we felt warmer, either through our frustration or the thickness of the trees, it seems like the past tense was all we had. We were going nowhere, and all the while Montana had felt that we had already been. That’s why I brought him along, to make time feel like it doesn’t exist. We had already arrived at the cabin; we had already gone over the hill in front of us; life had already happened.
White, while searching endlessly, is as cold as the arctic air. Only we weren’t near the arctic, we were on the eastern coast of Lake Michigan. The sun had gone down and there still was no color. I remember wondering in early November if I was ever going to see a white ground again. White changes surfaces. White is flame. White can turn sand into glass: it is so cold that it’s hot. White are the beaches where Montana was born. White reflects the sun as it had all day long up until this very moment. Yet, white does not reﬂect time nor place; Montana knew that. It was the one thing that couldn’t have happened yet.
Was the cabin still the way I remembered it? Fifteen years will change your memory and at the same time, it will change what is being remembered. The cabin was made of dark wood; logs around a foot wide, stacked from the foundation to nearly twelve feet high. The logs were worn from the wind and snow, creating a curvature around the diagonally cut corners. The roof had been made of wooden shingles, and the frost that gathered gave it a sparkling image, always twinkling in the distance, iced over from afar. I had spent most of my time on the porch, three long steps to an unleveled surface with one bench made of two stumps and woven branches. The view from this perch was the dark lake, forever scattered with whitecaps. The rocky beach was glazed in the process of wet snow freezing. I often felt that I was above the clouds looking down upon mountains, except that they were moving, waves distant in the deep.
I have never been inside the cabin and I had never wanted to. My destination was the lake beyond and had always been. I don’t know who lived there nor have I ever seen a light on. The lights were the roof, and the porch was my vision. Montana did not know this, and I knew he longed for a fire. I knew he didn’t expect to view the lake from the shore, in the cold, as I once viewed the Paciﬁc with him, feet in the warm water, hot as I’d ever been. I hated that I had tricked him, I hated how he would miss the similarities of our lives.
It is expected of me to bathe in the warmth of summer; or to keep my toes hovering above the fire. I should always be separated from the wind by a pane of glass; covered up to prevent winter from whispering down the neck of my sweater—the ends of my sleeves. Yet, goose bumps to me are like rays of sun to you. Visiting the southern states isn’t a vacation; it is the equivalent of you getting locked out of your house on a cold January night. Montana was starting to shiver—he had been locked out.
Not until this moment did I realize that my life was changing, the world around me longed for color—a balance. Before, I had only wanted to feel the icy liquid of the lake and breathe in the crisp colorless wind. The subzero temperature had no effect on me, as it never had. But something was different. The blood in my veins was getting warmer, and in my mind, the lake began to boil. A new feeling came over me and I hoped the cabin was near, I think I remembered a chimney, stretching out into space.