Utah has set records for October cold. It has been frigid, breath visible when I take out the dog in the mornings. These autumn days- darkening, snowing, cold- make me want to go underground, hide from the world.
Instead, I wake up at 4am to soak up the morning cold on our porch.
It sounds ridiculous (and it is), but it’s my effort of the year to acclimate myself to winter. I have mentioned my seasonal affective disorder, a winterly lethargy and depression. Last year, I was full of hope. For the first three months, it felt miraculous how my efforts were succeeding. I worked out every day, ate very healthily, and crammed my days with discipline.
But winter was everlasting. It was a full five months until spring. Spring, even, was sickly. Wan yellow light veiled trees with a thin mist of warmth, swept swiftly by any gust of cold. It wasn’t until June that the earth began to warm, the sun rays began to sink. When they did, my whole body sunk back into me, and I felt real, intense live-ness like a gust of joy. Was I really asleep all winter? I said, to Georg, who wondered the same. Almost half a year of cold, we realized, shaking our heads. And we decided to move. We can't afford to waste the live-ness we've been given.
So we said. But life isn’t so simple, and nothing we want from life can be found in the hot states (nothing but heat).
Hence my experiment of the year. I will bellow out to the morning blackness that if winter has want of me, I am here, sitting on my porch, waiting to be taught about hiddenness, about preparation for spring. If I can’t be happy, I can at least be wise (and wisdom deepens happiness, gives it texture and weight).
I am bundled in a coat with a blanket wrapped around my legs. My dog follows me everywhere, so he sits at my feet, clearly uncomfortable on the cold porch. I bring my laptop, but I close it after a few minutes. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that words are secondary (and sometimes superfluous) beneath a winter sky (beneath any sky).
So I sit for as long as I can, gathering the dog into my lap to keep him warm. Breathing.
The morning’s ripening has been halted by cold, and now stands starkly suspended in time. Orange lights flash in clusters from a far-off city, blurred as if distance were a material mist. I think of my best friend, who lives in the United Arab Emirates, the distance blurring our bodies. But friendship is different, I think. A person can appear crystalline in their closeness after only a flash of conversation. Humans are different, I think. It's not agency (all creatures have some level of agency), but our creative dance with space and time, which sets us apart.
The grating around the porch is black, is stark. My breath begins to coil around this object, to latch onto something to which I can anchor myself, can contextualize. Many long breaths later, and I think of how easy it is to become stark and cold as metal, a straight-backed bracketing of the far-off view.
Maybe it's not our creative bending of space and time which sets us apart, but rather our ability to talk of apartness to begin with. To cleanly cut our roots from that mammoth tree of living things, to skip into the gleaming streets of civilization, as if we won't all be brought back to our dust- cradles, as if our bodies aren't food for much smaller and no less significant things. As if our bodies are not simply brackets of other far-off views.