IT IS NOT in our self-appointed capacity as one of the resident custodians of the nation's political life that we wish now to speak to the city's visitors. Rather it is in our human and workday capacity as people who, exactly like you, awoke this morning, scratched enough ice off the window to be able to peer out, pulled in our breath, and declaimed: "It's still freezing!"

Actually, we have been privately admiring you all week. To observe you trooping in and out of the scores of places and events and parties in which the inauguration has been warming up - to use a nostalgic figure of speech - it is obvious that your enthusiasm for the political occasion has been, if anything, enhanced by the weather.A palpable sense of triumph over formidable natural odds has lit the comings and goings of inaugural-week tradition. Oh, there have been some grumps - and some collapses of planning and execution deserving of grumps. But the overriding spirit has been one of cheerful pride in confronting and mastering the elements.

We saw this spirit ourselves the other night in the refusal of the elegant women attending a party ot the Kennedy Center Atrium to be daunted by having to swathe their evening finery in heavy coats and car boots - until they got to the door. We saw it in an even purer form in the determination of the hardy band that walked to the Washington Monument - outside, at night, in the open - to see the fireworks bursting with far greater than Fourth of July intensity in the crystal air above. It is a spirit that optimists might be glad to identify and project as a national quality in this special season of change.

Our advice today, therefore, may be a trifle superfluous, though surely well-mentioned. Eat heartily before going out in the cold. Bundle up. Wear warm boots. Some of you may wish to pack a pneumatic jackhammer to crack the occasional patches of black ice. Others contemplating the chill may wish to bring along a thermos of chicken soup - or something more spirited. Especially those of you headed for the parade should grab up a newspaper for information on schedules, transportation, emergencies and the like, and to sit on. (Although, we have uncomprimising ideas on which of this city's daily newspapers offers the better reading, we confess that our judgement on which to sit on is ambivalent.) In any event, keep in mind that the prevailing wind blows from the west, most of the Mall museums are open until 9, the subway is heated, and when you return to Washington - as we hope you will - next summer, we shall welcome you . . . warmly.