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The Pike Log: Random Entries About Making His Story Mine

Can Fleece Make You Go Rogue?

Wrapped and warm.
The Scandinavian survival guide laughed when he saw me decked out in clothing mail-ordered from a so-called Arctic outfitter. Then he led me to a corner of the rustic lodge and rolled back a barn door. The walk-in closet was lined with cast-off SAS winter flight suits for tarmac workers. "You will wear these."

He then went and pulled out heavy boots and mittens in my size. He found a hat, complete with a chin strap and ear flaps. Everything was lined in reindeer fur. "They know how to survive in this weather."

Oh, where are those reindeer when I need them now?

Trying to survive my second winter south of the Arctic Circle means I should feel warmer than I did in Jukkasjarvi, which was deep in the frozen north of Lapland territory. But every morning, the weather report from VPR's Eye on the Sky makes me question my logic.

Among the phrases that give me pause are “modified Arctic air” and “an Alberta clipper…sending frigid winds across the Upper Connecticut River Valley.” And the current one which fills me with dread: “a collision” of two weather fronts heading to the Northeast from the Pacific Northwest and the Rio Grande River Valley. Translation: Big snow expected Friday.

Watching the outside mercury descend to minus 20 also means that what’s climbing is my heating bill. Last year I spent nearly $2,000 buying oil to get me through the first quarter of my move. I became a regular watcher of the commodity markets, checking the U.S. Weekly Heating Oil and Propane Prices. When I moved for the third time, I lucked out (I think) with propane; my January bill was $500.

A lot of Upper Connecticut River Valley homeowners keep their heat costs low by burning wood. As a tenant, I don’t have that luxury. Frankly, I don’t want to dress in reindeer-lined flight suits, either. Especially, indoors. But I do want to be comfortably warm.

So, in a part of the country celebrated for its artisanal ethos, I’ve gone rogue. I’ve turned away from wool and all that is knitted by hand. I’ve embraced that most manmade of cellulose, fleece.

I’ll take it any way I can get it. Socks? Yep. Jackets? Yessir! Sheets? Absolutely! Blankets? You bet. Come to my house and you’ll find them on everything from the bed to the lounging rocker to against the door to the garage. There’s one hanging from safety pins to block out the cold air seeping in from my north-facing study window.

But my best fleece is found lining pants; I am drawing the line at underwear. I found mine in one of those “old lady” catalogues that feature clothes with lots of elastic support and V-necked mumus. To hell with my vanity! I got tired of always wearing sweat pants when I went out in public. I wanted something more stylish that would also contribute to retaining my body heat.

I found the fleece of my runway dreams at The Country Store. So what that it adds heft to my hips and makes closing my circa 1999 floor-length “polar” fleece coat from L.L. Bean almost impossible to close. The upside? Both are machine washable! And, I’m warm as toast.

Now, only if the cats were furred in fleece. And, getting them to sleep on my head at night like other cat owners say theirs do. Unfortunately, mine have a foot fetish. Or, maybe my head just doesn’t generate enough BTUs.

I cope by building a fleece tent from another blanket and then placing my head inside on the pillow. Other nights I sleep with a red fleece cap on my head. Attractive? No. Practical? Yes.

To force heat to stay on my scalp when I go out, my hat of choice is a chic, black number with a suede crown and mutton-like interior and trim. The side effect is a wicked case of hat hair. Last week I had it chopped off. But next year, I may look into a wig. I hear they make heads really hot. Then I’d have a two-fer: style and warmth for my winter wardrobe!
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