Death by Cold

As I write this, Northwest New Jersey, and much of the country’s Northeast is being choked by a bitter, bitter cold. According to the Facebook posts of my area friends , portions of my home, Sussex County New Jersey, have seen or will see temperatures drop to 22 degrees below zero. Such a cold is a new sensation to many.

Leaving my home for a moment this morning, hearing a recent snow crunch beneath my feet, feeling the cold air snapped at my exposed skin as a viper. I was reminded of a favorite short story, a story by Jack London – To Build a Fire.

The story is of an unnamed trapper who fails to heed the warnings of an older, wiser man, a man who knows the long, sharp fangs of the Yukon, and heads out into the deep, Alaskan cold (By the way, I was born in Alaska.). The trapper’s foolishness and arrogance is soon apparent as he slowly fights a losing battle against the elements and feels his life, well, he see and feels his life freeze, skin, blood, and bone.

Here’s an except.

“Already all sensation had gone out of his feet. To build the fire he had been forced to remove his mittens, and the fingers had quickly gone numb. His pace of four miles an hour had kept his heart pumping blood to the surface of his body and to all the extremities. But the instant he stopped, the action of the pump eased down. The cold of space smote the unprotected tip of the planet, and he, being on that unprotected tip, received the full force of the blow. The blood of his body recoiled before it. The blood was alive, like the dog, and like the dog it wanted to hide away and cover itself up from the fearful cold. So long as he walked four miles an hour, he pumped that blood, willy-nilly, to the surface; but now it ebbed away and sank down into the recesses of his body. The extremities were the first to feel its absence. His wet feet froze the faster, and his exposed fingers numbed the faster, though they had not yet begun to freeze. Nose and cheeks were already freezing, while the skin of all his body chilled as it lost its blood.”

So, why this post? I simply wanted to share with you a story that I’ve always enjoyed, a story that pits man against his own folly for nature does not consider man an enemy. I don’t think nature considers man at all.

Please, if you haven’t, read this story. It can be found here. It’s a wonderful, haunting piece of literature.

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