Surviving Island Winters


Well, it’s finally winter in Alameda. Such as it is. The winds blow, the rains fall and the daytime and evening temperatures drop into the 50s! My relatives and friends back on the East Coast are snickering, and well they might, but those who have to deal with sub-zero temps can’t appreciate the mild middle climate that we live in. Fair enough, too many people trying to move to California as it is.

One of my real pleasures during our winters is the use of a lap robe. In the 19th century these items, neither clothing nor furnishing, were all the rage. When one’s home was heated by burning logs in a fireplace or coal in a stove, when the houses were drafty and fuel cost both labor and cash, a lap robe was a person’s best friend.

Even seated before a blazing hearth, a wrap helped and when the fire had burned to embers it helped even more. We have gas heat in our 106-year-old house but the house is drafty and getting to that last several degrees of heat between “still chilly” and unconscious comfort can be very expensive. Instead I wrap myself in my lap robe and feel much more in touch with the climate I live in.

Discomfort and how we deal with it is a basic motivating factor in human life and wind chill is a primary source of discomfort. How to deal with it is the source of legions of human inventions and the lap robe is one of the simplest and most effective responses we have. Remember the image of a small group of Native Americans standing out in the blowing wind wrapped in their blankets and comfortably looking out over the plains.

A lap robe is relatively inexpensive since any old blanket will do. Its use is so simple even a baby can do it and because it uses one’s own body heat as the source of comfort it engages us in the life of the universe. 

So turn down the thermostat, wrap up in a lap robe and appreciate your inner warmth.


Morton Chalfy’s extensive oeuvre is available on Amazon.