Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sentimentality is seasonal.

Sunlit hours dwindle and temperatures falter and fall with the leaves, and my mood starts to tank. I find my thoughts wandering around avenues and neighborhoods in my brain that are generally off-limits; little enclaves in my memory that I have no need to visit and, quite frankly, should avoid. I remember things that I associate with winter, though, both good and bad, and lately these things have been repeating in my head often enough that they deserve some attention.

As a kid, I know I hated how cold my toes got in the snow. Rubber boots, lining or not, didn't cut it when the snow got in after a particularly speedy descent from the sledding hill in my backyard, and I even if the rest of me was warm under the puff and swish of snowpants and a down coat, my toes were always fucking freezing. My sister and brother lasted way longer when it came to building forts in the hills of snow left by the driveway-plow guy. Still, I managed to keep my digits warm enough to afford me time to build my share of snowmen. I left an appropriate amount of snow angels. Much to my parents' frustration, I lost an admirable count of forks and spoons in my yard's winter cover playing Laura Ingalls Wilder or some-such make-believe. And- I always forgot my reticence at the nip in the air when my taste for maple-syrup-snow drove me, barefoot, from the kitchen to the back deck with an empty bowl.

High school winters were swim seasons, and the advancement of the season I measured by how quickly my hair froze in the walk from the natatorium to the car after practice. I think I spent an extraordinary amount of time indoors during those four winters, so the steady loss of sunlight didn't mean much. I never felt as brittle and cold then as I do now, either, because I experienced two climates: school, and pool. In retrospect, swimming probably saved me from a lot of cabin fever, although at the time I know I relished a day off from a workout, especially due to a snow day...that meant no school, either.

My most prominent memory from winters at Bowdoin is this: one day, after a nasty ice storm, I wandered outside to find the world dripped with and set in glass. Every tree branch, all the sidewalks, every chain-link on every fence, flower pots with shriveled plant stems, bicycles left outside- all of it, glass. I felt elated, lucky to be witness to such an awesome transformation of Brunswick to something out of the Chronicles of Narnia. I bet my excitement would have been heavily soured had I had to drive anywhere, but I didn't have a car, so the nasty reality of maneuvering a vehicle in that icy scene didn't occur to me. The landscape was purely brilliant.

For the last couple of years, I've been living on my own, reliant upon my bike, my legs, and the largely unreliable public transit system to get from place to place. This is great when the weather's great, but I've become much more attuned to things like wind speed, temperature, light, rain, snow, slush, ice...and frankly, winter is just a huge pain in the ass. I hate that the season limits me as far as where I can go, and that it makes the going rather unpleasant (at best), miserable, or downright impossible (at worst). I don't ski or snowboard, so I can't even find pleasure in snowfall as recreation, and last year, temperatures kept me shivering against my radiator and scalding my skin under a hot shower, hating every second of January, February, and March.

I remember how, when dating Andrew, I looked forward to hiding under the covers with him after flying down Mayfield hill at night. I'd always arrive bundled like child on a toboggan run, flipping back my hood in the hallway at his building for a big embrace and a kiss. I'd hop in the shower upstairs, "just for a minute," to warm up- a minute that turned into twenty as the bathroom filled with steam. Last winter, and this one, so far, I've missed loving him...and not simply because he warmed the bed like an electric space heater. I just remember how good it felt to be that vulnerable, to love someone that completely. I know how I feel now- that is, distant and isolated. I feel stuck, and every interaction I have, I'm just tapping on a plexiglass wall. I want so much to be that open and honest and present again, but anxiety won't have it, and panic has caulked the cracks where other people might seep in.

So. I'm just floating along now, sailing along with the wind (or battling against it), learning since last year that good clothing makes all the difference with the weather. I'm determined not to let the next few months break me, physically...but emotionally? I don't know. I don't want to be as depressed as I was a few winters ago, briefly single, anxious, lonely, directionless. I keep remembering things like that, though, and in combination with the flares of missing Andrew, my spirit's sometimes a little more frail than I'd like.

I am fortunate this year, however, to have a warm kitchen in which to work, and I was smart enough to buy good coats and boots and extra layers. Ach! I've done all I can to prepare my body for the weather, I suppose. I just don't think I've learned how to cloak my soul against the cold.

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