Not even two weeks ago I walked with a bucket of fermenting apples in each hand down the dirt road with my friend to feed the pigs. The snow came down in fat soft constellations, the sounds of our boots muffled in the snowpack, the spooning hills curling around each other in contented receding sighs, dotted with tiny lit windows and plumes of blue woodsmoke.
The pigs, to my comfort, are shaggy and brindled beasts who watched our approach with inquisitive gazes and did not wait for their food to freeze but politely snarffled through the snow where the glut of apples had lodged themselves in the drifts. The swine were at least belly-deep in the snow, which on me stopped at my knees.
We fed the chickens as the snow persisted, and my friend, a rose-cheeked example of many generations of Vermont hardiness, explained to me that the more snow we get, the less likely we are to experience the likes of last year’s drought. Of course. Which engendered in me a further tenderness toward the damp crystals encrusting our hoods and weighing in our escaped wisps of hair.
So at home I contentedly re-stuffed the woodstove and hung the wet woolens and made as spicy a curry as I could palate and we plotted an outdoor skating adventure for the following frozen frozen day.
As you might be able to tell: I was finally learning hygge, that intuitive coping with winter which eventually reveals itself as learning to not simply take refuge in but cherish the small snow caves we carve out and curl up in. No small feat for a femme raised in the deep South.
Alas, or perhaps not, this morning I left the house with only one wool sweater, a scarf, and hat. Okay, sure, I had pants on too. But the point is: The air felt kind on my face. Gloves were not a necessity. My toes didn’t go numb from the porch to the car. Now I sit in the studio with the sun shining through the tall windows. The river outside beyond the brace of tall bare maples is still frozen and covered with snow, but the sap lines are running, the pumps buzzing and coaxing the sweetness into the downhill tanks, the roads are wet and muddy and already the human faces look sparkly in ways that I don’t feel ready for yet.
Change, I’m noticing, even when the transition is from a less comfortable situation to a more hopeful one, can be a struggle. Once we’ve gotten used to a sour-faced boss, the cranky teenage offspring, the lonely confines of our daily routines, the brisk about-face of an apology from an unexpected source, a vulnerable moment that explains all of a day in high school, or the friend stopping by the office when we our faces have become one with the computer screen can feel strangely unwelcome. The small dragon inside me that finally succumbed to the lull of hibernation is maybe not ready to peel back layers, expose tender skin, dip a toe in the possibility that warmth is a distinct probability.
At least, I’m not starting seeds in the greenhouse yet.
But I am calling out my own reluctance toward hope, towards joy, both of which have been severely challenged in this political moment. I am taking my Daily Resilience Tonic, bathing in rose petals and chamomile flowers, keeping the Boundaries Potion in my pocket, and writing all the feelings down so I can have a little extra space as I go about my day. I am learning to be mindful when the stubborn little bull inside me wants to keep everything exactly how it is.
Oh yes, and I’m keeping Octavia Butler in one hand and a bit of garnet in the other. You too?