Sunday Report #2: Honoring the Cold
Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Part of the myth of progress that we believe in is that we’re evolving beyond religion, that there’s something primitive about that sense of the sacred. I don’t think there is. If we don’t have anything that we believe is above us, then we become destroyers, which is what we’ve become. We put ourselves at the centre of the world, and we become these individuals that just eat the world. - Paul Kingsnorth
Down at the lake again. I just shouted at Oscar - “Those are my shoes – you do not eat them!” He’s keen for my moccasins, which I’ve brought with me for a dose of cozy.
Oscar bites at the beach foam. The lake sends waves to gently accost the shoreline with the joyful enthusiasm of a lover who’s been away. The shore giggle-gasps for him again and again. The wind gusts past me, so much Colder than last week. The diamonds have pooled together at the far side of the lake, Michelangelo glow shining through a keyhole in the clouds. The Water and the Sky are always in conversation.
Oscar has found a small stick. He settles down to destroy it. He leaves one tattered cigarette-sized chunk on the dock and wanders off. He emerges, goes to the shore and drives his snout into a glob of foam, then looks up wearing a bubbled clown nose. The small plane overhead has his attention. I wonder if I plead hard enough, we could go back to having air mail delivery by float plane. Then I’d never have to go anywhere. I can feel myself gearing down for winter. The Hermit Dream is upon me. The Hearth calls.
Oscar has made a circle of himself and is turning around and around, biting his tail.
The wind is so Cold, I have to take breaks from writing to put my hands under the shirt I’m using as a blanket. It was hanging on the clothes line and I’d thought to myself – best to grab it, just in case. Smart girl.
The trick with Oscar is to give him a chair to sit in next to you. Then he stops jumping up and dirtying your recently clean shirt-blanket. On the chair, he might occasionally stand up and try to sniff your hair, but for the most part he’ll settle down. Today’s chair is not to his liking. Too small, with slippery cushions. He’s gone back to finding random things to chew on. A bleached out log. Some horsetail. Moss. Limp weeds. A piece of rotten old garden matting. Ew, I say. Give me that.
It’s magnificent to watch him barrel down the hill, thundering onto the dock and stopping just short of the end. When he first moved here at five months, he did fall off. He stood on his hind legs in the water, front paws on the dock, yelping until dad went and hauled him out. He could have just swum to shore, but somehow that never occurred to him. My parents tell a story of when I was small and got myself hung up in my snowsuit on a barbed wire fence. I was a screamer. I could yell as loud as my Grandmother at dinner. And they would say of Her... She had a voice that carried.
I’ve come in. Of all the delicious experiences in the world, the slow thawing of Cold fingers next to a crackling wood stove is one I’ve been blessed to have many times in my life. In Scotland it was the gas fire, appreciated but not the same.
Being Cold has a defining influence on a person. Being repeatedly Cold especially. It sculpts the instincts towards preparedness, and the pleasure sensors towards the bliss of snugness. I am of the Culture of Winter. I revere and honour the Cold. Oscar is a dog of the Cold. He’s made for it. He’ll remain primarily an outside dog through the Winter, denning up when he wants to in the unheated garage. If we kept him in the comfortable Warmth too much, his coat would forget to grow in properly. Our good intentions and over-indulgence would disrupt his body’s Wisdom, given to him by the Earth. We would weaken him and take away part of his Beauty. Instead, we will don our great coats and boots and go out to frolic with him at -30. We honour the Cold, as does Oscar’s fur.
If the seasons were Culture, which do you belong to?
I celebrate all seasons, but there is something about the dark season that brings me home to my ancient mind. The Cold has little humour and is seldom playful. She can be a screamer, or a hug that digs all the way in and through. The ghosts of those who have been marched through snow can attest to this. The Cold has no Mercy.
Marie Wilcox is someone I would describe as Singing in the Winter. The last fluent speaker of Wukchumni, there is no one to tell the Old Stories with, no indulging in a shared quirk of vowel or a knowing plosive pop. The trees may never hear the Old Songs again, and they’ve known them the longest.
There are times to be quiet and there are times when there is nothing left to do but Sing. Sing, Grandmothers, Sing.
Omi’s exercise for spiritual improvement:
Allow yourself to Become Cold. Stay with the experience of your Coldness as long as you can. Notice your discomfort from outside yourself. Turn around and drive your awareness deep into your discomfort. Stay there. A little longer. Breathe. Now go warm up. Delight in becoming warm. Write, sing, draw, dance the Story of your time being Cold and your return to Warmth.