Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Warmth Within the Chill


It's the cozy time of year. A cozy moment waits inside every chilly one. The return of the warmth is the innate complement, the yin to the yang, to the chill in the weather.

            The season's great early twilights draw us out. The golden slanting light of the early sunset turn the field grasses a marvelous bronze. The warmth of returning indoors is the finish -- like the finish of a good wine -- of that fast-paced ramble through the bronze grasses to gaze at the purple undersides of clouds fired by the fast-declining sun.

            The low, late autumn sun enriches the color of the turning leaves. The particolored pale yellows and oranges glow like fiery coals. They burn inside us. We know we need that fire. When we go indoors, out of the turning-season's chill, we expect it.

            In the chill half of the year, keeping warm is what life is about. It's the pre-condition for everything else. But it's not only a necessity, it's a pleasure, an ancient pleasure; the ancient, age-old longing for the hearth. We're OK with getting cold, with being outdoors in the cold, because we know we can get warm again. Night will fall, and the fires will be lit, even if they are the electrical or fossil-fuel sort.        

            And the cold nights, our need for the warmth of our home fires will likely, if we are at all fortunate, throw us together with other warm bodies. Because the weather gets chilly, we find one another.

            It's "cozy," as Anne says each year when she celebrates the arrival of another cold season, to go inside a warm house, put the kettle on for tea, and share a blanket on the couch.

            I resist closing the door on the warm season. I put on a winter jacket to go outdoors and give the flower pots on the porch another watering. As long as you water them most flowering plants will keep going until we get a genuine hard frost. Flowers are still hanging on some of the mums. The potted hibiscus still offers up new buds.

            But larger forces call the tune. When we lived in the country, winter arrived with a load of a wood in the back of a truck, a big truck that dumped a very large load of firewood, some considerable number of cords, in front of the house. You stacked the wood; then you split it; then you carried it indoors, armful by armful, as needed. Then you fed it into the stove. When you rely on wood fires to keep warm, you generally wake to a cold morning because the fire is either low, or out.

            I stayed in bed in those days because Anne started her days earlier and therefore was up first to make the fire. That part of things, Anne up first and me staying in bed in hopes that the house warms up soon, is still part of the seasonal equation, even though we rely on thermostats rather than wood to keep warm.

            But it's the chill that makes the warm. We go out to watch the leaves blow in the breeze, the clouds rush overhead, the trees turn bare (eventually); we go out to fire up the blood with a good, swift walk. And then when we get back indoors, the chill leaves our body, we nestle in to watch the sun go down, and (as Anne says) get cozy.