I own an ice scraper, a fancy one with an attached mitten, but the other morning what I really wanted was to get a hatchet and take a whack at the rime-encrusted windshield with that.
I have a hatchet, too, but I haven't seen the thing in years. Although to be honest I've never conducted anything like a thorough search. The thing is, from the first time I swung the hatchet its head was prone to flying off the handle, sometimes on the upstroke and sometimes on the down, and its lack of consistency in this tendency frankly appalled me. Basically it had a little more unpredictability than I like in a cutting implement. In any case I'm not willing to sacrifice even one finger, or significant portion thereof, for a stack of kindling.
Besides which I don't own any wood-burning appliances so I rarely need kindling.
Still and all, when ice reaches the state of obstinacy which it achieved on my windshield this week, I'd rather take after it with a tool made of a material that can hold a keener edge than cheap plastic. If I'd had the hatchet I probably would have given the windshield a prod with the blade.
A gentle prod.
It stands to reason, I suppose, that ice is tougher at 10 below zero than at 25 above. Most things, it seems to me, become more difficult the closer the liquid gets to the little bulb at the bottom of the thermometer.
Breathing, for instance.
And yet, even as I stood there shivering in the pitiless chill of the predawn, hacking impotently at the glazed glass, I relished the moment for its pure rarity.
It was the sort of feeling not an epiphany, exactly, but powerful that reminds me why I love living in a place where the climate swings so wildly and so widely between its extremes.
I had similar sensations when I lived west of the Cascades, but these were vague by comparison. When the rain sluices down and it's 40 degrees there is a particular satisfaction in the certainty that, within a few months, there will come a day when the sun blares and the temperature climbs into the 90s and cold drizzle seems a distant hazy memory.
Summer is no less certain here on the eastside, of course. But its inevitability does not seem quite so sure, I think, when the cold presses in the way it does at 40 degrees or more below the frost line.
At that instant, with an ineffective ice scraper in hand, the notion that soon you will wear shorts and still swelter, seems not merely improbable, but downright preposterous.
Jayson Jacoby is the editor of the Baker City Herald.