Spring Cleaning

February 14, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Spring Cleaning, Vermont, Winter

When did they invent the wind chill factor? When it’s zero outside, it’s cold. And when the Internet says that there is a wind chill factor of-50 it’s still cold. But we already knew that. We were staying away from the windows, (new, double paned, insulated, mullioned, 56 of em’… still cold), and promising ourselves to add a fancy storm door on the front come spring. The pile of firewood in the basement is diminishing. We fill the wood closet every couple of days and build big fires that do more for our spirits than for our feet. We light candles because they look warm, and turn on all of the lamps for the same reason. And somehow we feel smug up here ensconced in the deepest part of winter. The days are a little longer, but then the temperatures are a little lower. The snow has an icy coating and crunches when you walk on it. Vermonters take an odd pride in surviving winter. Yankee pot pie was probably invented here, and Guiness stew is a staple. Our hips are a little bit rounder, but our minds are sharp and clear. We think the summer people seem drowsy by comparison, the ones who live without seasons, and move from blue skies to sunny days. They get the heat, and the sluggishness of unrelenting sun seems to settle about their shoulders. Or at least this is what we tell ourselves in February. It is the juicy rationalization that gets us out to the chicken house with buckets of hot water for the warming trough, which seems unable to cope in this weather. We drink hot spicy cocoa and read Ayn Rand, and Grace Paley. We argue about politics with everyone we know, because debate generates heat. And we live in our kitchens because oil costs more than we earn in a month, and the dryer is in a little cubby just off the kitchen, where the oven always has good stuff inside, and it is the warmest room in the house. Now sometimes we do go barefoot in December because we have adapted. But unlike the city people who live in the new McMansions up here we bought a house that was built in 1838. It probably seemed pretty warm back then. It has developed a few cracks since. So by February we wear slippers. We go outside with vests and uncovered necks down to about 10 or 15. Zero gets our attention, and longjohns were invented for old houses.

Cleaning out and throwing away is a February activity. The seed catalogs have started coming and we remember our mothers talking about spring cleaning. It makes sense since we have salt in between all the floorboards, and snow pants and gloves atop every radiator. There are wood shavings,( from carrying the wood up four times a week), strewn everywhere always. Actually things are a mess. Come to think of it, so am I. I come home to Vermont and crawl into flannel everything. Wet hair sort of hurts in the morning when you can see your breath, so my hair lacks the Aveda touch most days. I may just have to face that amid all this stiff upper lip smug northern exterior we are letting things go as my grandmother always warned we might. She believed we were always one stray pair of shoes away from the abyss. And she just may have been right…

Our CDs are in piles next to more piles of empty cases. The Christmas music sits next to Ella Fitzgerald who got dumped in favor of some New Orleans jazz when we remembered it was Mardi Gras someplace where it was warm. The drawers are filled with half empty tubes of lip balm, single gloves, broken pens, and change. There are no proper tablets, but scraps of envelopes with phone numbers and messages tacked to the bulletin board in the kitchen. The basketball schedule is torn, and the plumbing bill is late. Spring cleaning must have been invented for the poor winter saps whose minds and lives got stuck like the windows on the frozen cars. I think it’s time to throw some stuff away…..


  • Anonymous

    Come to my house…

  • jamie

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • jamie

    If it makes you feel any better, it’s not a whole lot better here in Iowa! Yesterday my car said it was negative 8 as I was driving to work–and it was windy. You can likely imagine what that feels like. Stay warm!

    And, I’m on my way to Mr. Chocolate right now! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Let it go I say. Until you have only a path wending through the mess, I think you are still okay. At least this is what I tell myself. And I won’t read or watch any of those who champion organization like a religion….
    Hey whre did our nickname option go?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know. I do a blog with lots of pictures and stuff of my kids just for my family so I always use the nickname option. WTH?

  • Anonymous

    Ooh I don’t like having to be anonymous. I don’t have a blog. A friend of mine told me about yours and I follow a couple of others. To whome do we complain?
    Spring cleaning goes with crocuses. It’s too soon. It will just break your heart if the wiondows shine when the ice slides off the roof

  • Kellan

    I felt like I was right there in your house with you – with my slippers on and sitting around the kitchen table drinking spicy hot chocolate. This was a lovely picture of your life – I love reading about your life in Vermont! Hope you have had a wonderful day – see you soon. Kellan

  • Anonymous

    illinois x said great writing again but where is our nick name option????

  • illinois x


  • illinois x

    nick name option still there; just choose “name/url” and put your nick name in name field and leave url field blank…

  • Margie

    Aha thanks…IL X

    Spring cleaning…..mewspapers with Windex on the windows

  • library lady

    Don’t get too into spring cleaning–doesn’t Mud Season preceed spring? We keep getting threatened by forecasts of snow and ice, but the St. Louis Shield seems to stop it all in Columbia.

  • IL X

    with regard to library lady’s comment; i like that: St. Louis Shield…i had never thought of it that way but you are entirely correct…also the storms coming from the west or southwest seem to slip to the north or south around S. Louis like there is some big invisible dam out past Wentzville…sorry for the digression El…

  • the dragonfly

    You honestly made me cold. After I read that I decided I needed to find some socks and put on a sweatshirt.

    I don’t miss snow!


  • Angela

    Oh good luck with your spring cleaning… I, too, need to jump on that bandwagon!

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