I remember last winter very well. I remember how the cold never died; how I never shed my layers, not even indoors. How I wore all I could to bed. How my water bottles froze by my bed. The wind rushing into my room through the broken window. How water froze in the pipes, and for three months it didn’t run. How a trip into the capital came to mean “shower” to me. How the word “bathe” became part of my vocabulary and how this came to mean using baby wipes. The smell of burned wood in my clothes, in my hair, in my nostrils. Choosing what to do and when based on heat. Hovering over wood stoves and gas heaters when they were in a room. Making Turkish coffee on heaters. Burning my legs against them, so close did one have to be to feel the dissipating warmth in non-insulated rooms. The outhouse smells changed. My standards of cleanliness. I remember that winter well.
I remember it now as I sit warm in my apartment. As I marvel at my tank-top in December. At how I shed layers. How I shower. Everything is different. Everything. I can’t complain of the heat in the building. I can’t complain at all.
How we live is so different from how the world lives. How ignorant we are of it. How blissfully unaware. Blind.
I read books sometimes that are set in other periods. Maybe Victorian England, for example. And I can imagine the cold indoors. I can imagine the closeness of space. No… I can remember it. Times have changed, and times have not…
So when people ask me now, two weeks away, what do I want for my birthday…how can I answer seriously? What on earth do I want for? Don’t I have it all? Yes, yes, it can be snatched up in a moment and turned to cinder and less. We’re more ephemeral than dust, for dust at least keeps its shape over time. But that’s true of every living thing. Every one of us wriggling in a moment, our own, special, significant and aware moment.
Yeah, I’ll appreciate the kindness of family and friends, but I can’t possibly use the words “I want” and speak of things, without feeling awfully blind to all I already have…
Besides, I just started working on a birthday present to myself. And it’s a fine one.
There’s something someone once said…and I paraphrase and lose part of its power, I’m sure. But the gist of it is: “If you haven’t done something today that’s frightened you, that’s unknown and bigger than anything you’ve ever done before, then you haven’t lived today yet.”
When I started writing, that was my new, frightening unknown. But now, in the lead-up to my birthday, after getting all those “what do you want” questions…I’m doing something rather different, too. More on that as it solidifies; I’ve signed up to do something that I think has worth, and that will require its weight in work, too. But basically it has to do with “giving” rather than “getting” for my birthday. Wish me luck!!
Happy Holidays, everyone! 🙂 Any good plans?