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Archive for November, 2009

Nostalgia

In my earliest memory I am two and a half, sitting in the cab of a pickup truck next to Theresa. Mom is driving, and has just realized that she has left the cap of the gas tank at the gas station. We turn around and head back.

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At three years I am standing at the foot of the stairs at our house on 47th Street. I look on silently as a wet, steady stream cascades down the wooden steps. My eyes follow a trail of broken glass to where Theresa stands at the top of the stairs, gazing down at her prized possession lost: a giant pickle jar once lovingly filled with river water. Tadpoles, shells, slimy pebbles now lie strewn about and encroaching upon the front entryway.

She looks upset.

The musty smell makes me think camping: plastic mugs hung on tree branches, a hammock. For that split second time halts, and we both stare dumbfounded at the scene, anticipating Mom’s frantic investigation.

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A tornado came through the neighborhood. We went to the basement, and someone set me on top of a tall dresser near a window. A distraction occurred and for a brief moment that seemed interminable I was stranded alone on my perch. I turned to the window to watch the branches falling outside.

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Amazement

You want to know what’s absolutely stunningly beautiful?

Chromosome painting.

This is what we’re made of folks.

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icytree

It’s the time of year when everything seems to get a little harder. Days are shorter. It’s easier to wake up in the dark thinking that you have hours left to sleep, only to realize it’s about that time: Time to get up into the drafty air, waiting for your body to readjust and stop aching with cold. It’s harder to find enough clothes to wear; harder to want to walk out that door and shiver in the car until the heater warms up.

For some of us this time of year begins earlier than for others. And I’m not talking about a difference in climate, I’m talking about difference in bodily qualities. Studies have been done which indicate that the way fat is distributed in a persons body can make her more susceptible to feeling cold. Those of us (typically women) who are designed to have a higher core body temperature are often the ones responsible for the cold hands and feet under the covers. Of course factors such as diet, activity levels, and even sleep patterns can also mess around with our ability to tolerate cold. I come from a long line of women with poor circulation, who all know that winter really begins sometime in September, and lasts full on til that point in May or thereabouts when we can walk about in our own homes without that chilly undercurrent tensing our bodies.

And yet, for all the moaning and heartache that occurs the first night when it drops below sixty degrees, there is a certain charm inherent in this darker half of the year which is sometimes easy to overlook. Since this year’s summer equinox I’ve been compiling a list in my head of all the reasons I can conceive to look forward to the cold weather. Most of these are highly personal (I know not everyone has a dragon hat to anticipate wearing), but my hope is that everyone will be able to appreciate and perhaps chip in with some reasons of their own.

  • As mentioned above, my latest favorite part of the season is the opportunity to wear my dragon hat. It’s a blue wool cap that Theresa bought for me in Atlanta last December; complete with flaps to cover the ears, fleece lining, and a silly cartoon dragon face knitted onto the top. This thing has horns. It’s delightfully preposterous, which is of course right up my alley.
  • There’s something unmistakably nostalgic about the first day you wake up, walk straight to the thermostat and crank it up to 70, waiting for the furnace to kick on. The gentle white noise of the warm air being pushed through the heater ducts is soothing. I like to curl up on a heater grate with a blanket reading or doing whatever, while experiencing the intermittent extremes of hot and cold. Heater kicks on, everything is good, you start sweating, blanket comes off, butt gets a tad too toasty, adjustments are made, heater stops running, blanket is reapplied, and you sit patiently for the process to begin again.
  • Over and over again I hear the refrain “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!” It seems that everyone loves getting together with family members for food food and more food. Personally, the cold dark days get me looking forward to Christmas and all the loot I’m gonna rake in! Hey I love family and the spirit of giving, but making my Christmas wish list sure makes a chilly night seem brighter.
  • I adore soup. I eat it year-round. I will order it from a restaurant on the sunniest, hottest day of summer and won’t even think twice about whether or not this is appropriate. I will eat it any time of day. I don’t care. I love soup. And soup in the winter time is even better. The best part about wintertime soup is when you have to stop eating to take off your sweater mid-way through.
  • As much as I love soup, I hate doing dishes. But, standing at the sink with my hands plunged into a basin of hot soapy water wile watching snowflakes drift past the kitchen window really does approach enjoyableness.
  • Cuddling is good year-round, but in the wintertime it’s phenomenal. Even kitties think so. Around this time of year I typically get an extra 20 or so pounds of living breathing fur-covered heating pads dotting the duvet and keeping my toes warm.
  • I read once that people who are holding warm drinks are more trusting and “warm” toward others. I know that for me one of the things I look forward to most around October is bringing home a jug of apple cider and some cinnamon sticks to warm on the stove. I can’t get enough of it, and it makes the house smell great. Take a swig before you head out in the morning and maybe scraping the frost from the windshield won’t be so awful. On a side note, I also read once that bumblebees seek out warmer flowers because they like warm drinks too!
  • ‘Tis the season for watching all the classic Christmas movies–you know, Love Actually, Christmas Vacation, While You Were Sleeping, etc!
  • At my house, I breathe a sigh of relief for the time of year when the wildlife begins to settle down. Not only are my own cats much more interested in staying indoors and sleeping (instead of scratching at windows to be let in, or meowing to be let out all night, or bringing in their various catches of the day), but my raccoon and opossum friends are more interested in staying outdoors, which is good! I’m getting used to controlling the wildlife traffic flow in my house, but these days there are fewer nights interrupted by ravenous coons in the kitchen.
  • Just as getting out in the spring to plant flowers and rev up that mower is simply joyous, I find much contentment in these days when my lawn doesn’t need to be mowed, and nothing needs to be watered. I do still need to rake, but once that’s done I won’t have to lift a finger for yard work for another four or five months. Hallelujah.
  • This semester I am driving downtown to school at least 7 times a week. I take the same route every time, and every time I get stuck at the same streetlight wedged between a liquor store and one of those scary looking “churches” tucked away in an abandoned looking mini mall. This corner hosts some of the scariest-looking people I have seen in Indianapolis. They mosey about this intersection, stumbling between cars and asking for money on the perpetual trek between the liquor store and the front steps of this place of sketchy worship where they perch with their brown paper bags in hand. Perhaps they are less fortunate, but I certainly am relieved when the cooler weather drives them back to their own homes or perhaps just back into the liquor store and away from my driver’s side window.
  • I’ve gotten to a point where it’s difficult to sit at home and study if I do not have a fire going. A fire is almost a human presence in the house. It warms but it also cures loneliness. I don’t know how this works but it works for me.
  • A change in clothing is a big part of winter (obviously). Stretchy pants are my favorite part of winter clothing. I actually enjoy the cooler spring and fall days when I can pair a dress or skirt with a pair of leggings and feel super cozy and cute. And in the bitterest of cold days, a pair of stretchy pants beneath a pair of jeans goes a really, really long way toward warding off the miserable cold. And it just feels comforting!
  • Everyone loves a snow day. Come on. There’s no summer day on the beach that can compare to that dark blustery morning when you check the listings and find out that you, my friend, get to climb back in bed, not worry about work or school, and spent the day under a huge pile of blankets.
  • Reason #15 that I look forward to winter? –Huge piles of blankets.
  • I am an avid tree admirer. I can’t help it, I just notice nice trees and like to point them out to other people. Trees without leaves are especially enjoyable, because then you can truly appreciate the beauty of an oak or a sycamore with their unique forms that might otherwise go unnoticed. ¬†And no one can deny the beauty of a snow-covered or ice-glazed tree.
  • I don’t know how many people spend countless uncomfortable hours in the summertime shivering in frigid, super-air-conditioned restaurants and grocery stores, movie theaters, and classrooms. I sure do. In the wintertime I don’t have to worry about bringing a jacket to a date on a 90-degree day. I don’t have to stash a sweater in my backpack, or feel silly toting extra layers with me when I go shopping. The day those a/c units are shut down sure is a relief to me!

I could go on, but I think I get my general idea across, right? Without winter I wouldn’t get to look forward to the coming of spring and greenery and warm weather. But even more importantly, without winter I wouldn’t get to look forward to–well, winter.

Dragon Hat

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