January in a cold climate is a good time for brisk walks, roasted vegetables and mittens.
Mitten comes from the Old French mite, a term of endearment for a cat, probably because these hand warming gloves with a sleeve for the thumb were made of fur. Surely, not cat fur.
My mittens are fish-shaped with alternating black and gray stripes and they swim over my hands.
They are loose, and soft, light and tightly-knit so the wind doesn’t get in. I love them so much that after I’d worn them about a week, I couldn’t stand the thought of losing them, so I bought another pair. A spare.
A recently-published memoir by a British Royal discusses the heavy burden of being a spare, but I don’t get it. A spare has a purpose and is treasured, but is rarely called upon to do anything. Is it so bad to be a spare?
Last winter, I wore my mittens often, and a right-hand mitten was the first to go missing. I retraced my steps, looked under the car seats, and combed the parking lot at the IGA. And then I switched to the spare mittens with the remaining left-hand mitten as a back up.
The world, some say, is a chaotic place, but I’ll never accept that. There is a place for everything, even if everything is not currently in its place. I’m a list-maker, a document-filer, a box-filler, even when my organizing efforts do little to slow the gradual decline into disorder that is called entropy.
Entropy never decreases; it’s a fundamental rule of thermodynamics and it’s probably somewhere in the Shelter Island Town Code.
But entropy can be slowed, and that’s why I did not stop looking for the missing mitten until spring came, and I figured it had probably been used to line the rabbit burrow under the forsythias.
Summer passed, and when the thermometer finally stayed below 40 degrees, out came my mittens for their second season of service. This year it didn’t get cold enough for mittens until after Thanksgiving, and a few days later somewhere between the dump and exercise class, entropy surged, and my right-hand mitten disappeared.
I scoured every parking lot I’d been through, and texted pictures of the lonely mate to everyone I had seen. While poking around in a pile of leaves with a stick, thinking it might have flown off my lap when I got out of the car, it occurred to me that I still had a spare mitten from last year.
Since I’d already lost a right-hand mitten, the remaining spare was left-handed and I had to wear left-handed mittens on both hands, but they were still comfortable, and I don’t think anyone really noticed.
Then at the end of a dark, cold, disorganized day during which I had already left my phone in a closet, and my coffee cup on the picnic table, I lost a mitten somewhere between the elliptical in the Fitness Center and the school parking lot. With no more spares, this was a crisis.
I tore the place up looking for it. I checked other people’s coat pockets, looked under each stationary bicycle, and searched the parking lot by the light on my cellphone. Defeated, I reached into the pocket of my coat for the car keys, and pulled out the missing mitten. A miracle!
But where were my car keys? Out of the tiny breast pockets of this many-pocketed coat came doggy treats, Kleenex, face masks, and another miracle — the mitten I lost last winter. I was back up to three mittens! (The car keys were in the console.)
Sometimes I tire of the same dog-walk routes, but Mabel likes her usual ways, so we stick to a loop that goes along Chase Creek in the morning and one that goes up to the top of Goat Hill and back down through the wooded Heights roads in the afternoon.
Last week, as Mabel and I approached the house at the end of our morning loop, I was missing a mitten. We went back around on our loop and there it was, where I had dropped it while lunging to grab a chicken bone before she got it.
I guess it’s a good thing we stick to the same paths. Eventually we catch up with ourselves, and entropy abates. That afternoon my husband and Mabel were lagging behind me when I heard him say, “Look at this!”
There in his hand was a dirty, black glob that I had taken for a flattened spot of macadam as I power-walked past it. His glove had been lost for over a week, and now it was found.
Like they say, if you love something, set it free. But make sure you have a spare.