A Love Letter To The Cold: I’d Rather Shiver

I get home, quietly close the door behind me, blocking out the sounds of a dinner party next door, and take a few deep breaths. There’s the promise of rain in the air – not the cloying, drippy kind of rain, but proper rain, the kind that dances above car roofs and tears branches off trees. The temperature’s dropping fast. After a day of clear skies, it’s a shock.

My body convulses. Goodness me, what is this? Should I call for help?

Ah yes. I remember now. It’s called ‘shivering’ – and I’ve forgotten how much I love it.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to heat myself up, to see if I can take it.

But basically, I’ve lived like a Stark for most of my life. A few years in Zimbabwe, almost a decade in South Africa, grey skies, shivering on the shoreline, shivering on the beach, shivering in the woods. The signs of loving the cold weather were always there – but over time, I learned to ignore them, because what kind of idiot would enjoy being cold?

I’d convinced myself that the cold is something to get away from. Now, I’m not so sure. 

The human body is remarkably resistant to cold. It only takes a few extra degrees of internal temperature for the human body to shut down and start cooking you in your skin. In comparison, getting cold is a survivalist luxury – you’ve got 9 whole degrees before you’re in real trouble.

Cold is also more manageable. It’s an agent of change. When you’re chilly, you put something on. When you’re hot, you take something off – until you reach the limits of decency or biology, at which point you’re screwed. 

If you’re in the outdoors, getting cold is a sign you’re not doing enough, you’re lazy, you’re soft. You smack your gloved hands together, rub your face furiously, walk faster, or huff and puff your way through some exercises.

The cold makes you do more with your day – not comfortably, perhaps, but certainly productively.

Last year, in a beautiful but non-air-conditioned wood cabin in the hills of Kruger National Park, I was stupid enough to get heat exhaustion. I thought going out after a long while in lockdown would do a trick or two. I was wrong. The temperature climbed to 38 Celsius, deep-roasting the air going into my lungs, and I quickly became so dehydrated that my health fell apart: a week-long headache, dizziness, and no ability to concentrate on anything.

Since then, I’ve had recurrences, like my body’s thermostat is stuck. It’s therefore ironic that I’ve spent this year virtually on the equator – where the weather is relatively cool, and my place is smack in the middle of one of the area’s chilliest micro-climates at ground level, hehe I wish.

Still, I really miss feeling truly cold. Now it seems I’ve even forgotten what shivering feels like. How messed up is that? Very, says a quietly frustrated voice inside me.

But when it comes to the outside, to the open air, to a day’s walking and a night under the stars, bring me the cold. I know how to fix it – just stamp your feet and rub your hands.

I love watching my breath huff into the air and feeling my nerve endings yell until I rub life back into them. Cold is just a way of feeling lots of things.

So I’ll stand out here for a bit longer, thanks.

Yes, I’m shivering a bit. No, I’m totally fine. Yes, I know this is a bit weird.

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