“Want to go for a walk?” says Larry.
I look up from my unfruitful musings, and say, “no way, we’ll freeze to death.”
“You like the cold.”
“I do, from a distance.”
Still, in my pajamas at exactly 10:50 am, I’m snuggled in the double-wide, covered in a fur blanket, staring at an empty page on my computer screen as I struggle to find something funny, relatable, universal to say, but sadly without Shaggy lounging at my feet, I feel unmoored.
“What are you doing?”
I say, “what does it look like I’m doing?” (I may have infused this question with a little attitude)
He ignores my sarcasm.
I’m like a dog with a bone, I say, “for your information creativity is very time-consuming, and in fact, my brain is burning a ton of calories just thinking about what to write, let alone the movement of my fingers over the keyboard. It’s a wonder I haven’t wasted away to nothing”
“So that explains the second piece of lasagna you just inhaled.”
“Feeding this brain is a full-time job.”
“Spare a little for the guy still holding down a job.”
“There’s a whole bag of apples in the frig.”
The truth is instead of writing, I’m assuaging my hunger while browsing the internet for puppies with big ears, which is helping my sour mood, but unlike Amazon, they don’t take credit cards or ship puppies for free.
Additionally, I’m in a nasty standoff with Lamps Plus. I ordered a mirror over a month ago, which is most likely lost, but they keep telling me the delivery dates are estimates and I should expect delays due to COVID, our modern-day scapegoat.
I told them if I don’t have my mirror by Monday I want my money back.
He wrote me a very passive-aggressive note, “thank you for your email, it is my pleasure to assist. Please let us know if there’s no movement after 10 business days and we would be happy to further assist.”
It’s called a refund pal, I don’t need your assistance.
So I start browsing for mirrors on Etsy when I am reminded to work on my reflection! Get it? Bahaha
I can see it’s going to be one of those posts, and clearly, I can’t be held accountable for what lands on the page when my productivity is being challenged.
Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, it’s why I don’t bother changing into clothes until after Christmas.
From here on out the light will be slipping into the night as if a clandestine affair slowly exposing her wanton ways until darkness is at the mercy of her candescence.
I have no idea where that came from. Too much lasagna?
I’m not sure how I feel about the wanton light, because as if a lizard, I thoroughly enjoy the darkness and cold. I think it’s embedded in my DNA. I’m Swedish. It’s also why I need chocolate, cheese, and wine. Just sayin’.
Most people like summer. I get it.
I just find excessive temperatures intolerable (anything over 80 degrees), especially as I age, I don’t like being covered in sweat, feeling the inescapable suppression of suffocating heat, additionally, being hot (as in overheated) is associated with fisty behavior.
Oh, I can hear it now, from here on out I’ll be known as the Ice Queen, but you would be wrong. My heart is quite warm and amendable. I can provide references if needed.
I understand the mechanics of this annual shift in light but I wonder if the winter solstice is simply a reminder for us to pay attention to the continual changes happening all around us?
These changes occur whether we notice them or not, just like the seasons of our lives, of which I’ve entered into my own winter of sorts, therefore my obsession with coats is totally rational.
Looking for inspiration I turn to my favorite podcast, On Being, with Krista Tippett. She always delivers and I have to say her recent interview with Katherine May is genius.
Katherine says “deeply unfashionable things,” she recommends slowing down, resting, retreating, she calls this wintering and she illuminates these concepts in her new book Wintering, The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times [link here].
Of course, I ordered it immediately, and as soon as I did I could hear Larry’s footsteps pounding down the hall, so I interrupted my podcast in anticipation of a mini-rant. We share an Amazon account and the emails go directly to Larry.
I know, major design flaw, I’ll get my engineers on it lickety-split.
He says, “no more Amazon orders! We’re done.”
“Honey, I have to learn how to winter properly.”
“What you need is to learn how to budget.”
“If there’s a book on this form of abuse I’d be happy to order it?”
I get the look.
So I return to my podcast and musings as Larry bemoans the fact ESPN is currently off our platform.
Krista says I’ve come to think of our pandemic world as one vast communal experience of wintering, with much to metabolize and carry, and in aching need of replenishment.
According to Paulo Coelho, a miracle happens when we are given another day.
As I age I appreciate this wisdom more and more.
The thing is I take this miracle of life for granted, I assume when I close my eyes at night, that I’ll be opening them in the morning, Larry will make coffee, and the sun will illuminate another day.
I remember driving to the hospital to deliver Julie, our first baby, our first encounter with parenthood, and for me, my first labor.
I remember thinking that everything in my life is about to change and yet as I gazed not only through a window of pain, but through the window of the car, I was confronted by the realization that everyone is going about their day as if nothing extraordinary was about to happen.
How can this be?
How is it that my experience is so different from everyone around me? I feel that way today as I pull my head out of the sand after almost two years of isolation (loosely defined) and I have this perception that everyone else is handling it so much better than me?
I just found out we are returning to a mask mandate, the Omicron variant is on the rise, creating havoc with our health, vocations (not to mention vacations), and our ability to freely move about the world. It’s as if the seatbelt sign has been left on permanently.
I think about COVID more than I care to admit. I worry about what this disease will mean for our future? Not just mandates but how it will affect our wellbeing, the evolution of life, maybe even our longevity?
I keep hoping I’ll wake up one morning from this universal nightmare and I’ll be fifty-five again, employed, my hair still blond, not to mention a noticeably smaller derriere.
Katherine May says, “wintering is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.”
This woman is speaking my language.
I especially love how she notes that this is a time for reflection, recuperation, slow replenishment, and putting your house in order. This is exactly what I’m doing, expanding my reflection time, my loungewear, eating plants (as soon as I finish the lasagna), and organizing my closet. Now they have a label for it.
I’m not the Ice Queen, I’m the Winter Queen.
Metaphorically, I’m weeding through all the shit that landed in my crucible and discovering the right blend for my future self.
It’s actually a radical act to “sit for hours doing nothing.”
Here in the United States, we consider rest a shameful act, morally corrupt behavior, because if busy is fashionable, then frantic is the height of fashion.
Did you know that Jesus was considered quite radical for his time? Seriously, he hung out with an entourage of outcasts, participated in a lot of impromptu dinner parties, with an abundance of blessed wine, talked about his faith to anyone “with ears to hear,” and as his popularity soared he became so threatening to the local authorities he was crucified.
Jesus’ most important teaching was surprisingly simple, he said, “love [God] with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…and love your neighbor as if yourself, everything hinges on the action of love.” Matthew 22 (adapted)
Radical advice especially valid today.
It snowed here last night, it’s extraordinary to wake up to a dusting of snow on Mt. Konocti. Katherine May says what she loves about snow is the way that it makes a clean break. She says, “it transforms the landscape. Everything’s different. Everything sounds different. The quality of life is different. The light kind of sparkles off it. You know before you open your curtains that snow has landed.”
It forces us all to pause and consider what really matters.
We’re ritual poor in our society says Tippett and we fail to mark the passing of the seasons especially the darknesses.
We do worship Black Friday but I don’t think that’s what she meant?
So today can we all agree on a communal rest, put down our phones, close our computers (after you finish reading), and sit for a spell listening to the sound of our own thoughts.
What might we hear?
I think we’d be surprised by our unique knowledge, our compassion for each other, imbued with a sense of gratitude for this one precious life.
The gift of pause is a gift we give ourselves.
It should be the first gift we open.
We can write ourselves a new story for 2022, one that fuels a rich and vibrant life without leaving us feeling empty and drained. This pandemic lasted far longer than we expected, and seems hellbent on staying, but we have survived, we’ve stretched ourselves, we learned to be creative, and we have become proficient at creating our own illicit joy within the confines of the present moment.
To my readers, I can’t thank you enough for supporting this little dream of mine, for joining me in the comments, for wrestling with the tribulations and joys of living in a complicated world. I’m deeply humbled and grateful for your presence in my life.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, one that includes rest, restoration, and replenishment.
Wintering a Season in Nature and Life [link to full podcast] by Krista Tippett and Katherine May
I’m Living in the Gap, wintering if you will, love to hear what you’re up to.