cold denial of winter in the north


200620131897POSTCARD #30 Delhi: Gone are the barefoot days of summer, the short-pants and silly Tshirt. It’s cold now. Ah, that warm memory; sunny weather and things that don’t matter. If I’m going around dressed like a clown, how can I take life seriously? It’s okay here except it gets hot like an oven for three months of the year, peak temperatures at 46°C and higher. Now, though, our world is sliding down slowly into the chilled foods section of the supermarket, colder and colder – still warm during the day, but cold at night. Temperature dropping and I’m struggling slightly with this shut-in feeling, like maybe I’m ill or something? There’s got to be some reason for this heaviness, burdened by the weight of clothing.

Dark grey skies in the morning seen from this old house, through these large single-glazed windows, loose fitting and drafty, high ceilings, marble tiled flooring and small electric heaters on wheels that run across the smooth surface. It’s good enough for rented accommodation, single storied; a large roof window in the middle of it where I set up my drawing board. Nice overhead light but when it’s raining the sound is deafening and in this cold weather it’s as cold inside as it is outside. I wear a scarf indoors, a wooly jumper, and pause to consider the novelty of socks… wiggle the toes.

IMG_0271Jiab is ok about it, she’s from Thailand where it’s blue sky every day and this dullness is quite interesting for her; comes over to me with her sleeve rolled up and holds out her arm for me to look at: ‘see?… it’s that thing again, what you call it?’ I say ‘goose bumps’ (supplier of English vocabulary), look closely and sure enough, the skin is reacting to the cold. Different though from my experience of childhood in 4° below zero in Scotland most of the winter; memories of a snow drift against the side of the outhouse, frozen until the springtime. I am the escapee. It’s so dark there, they use special lighting to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), ‘winter depression’ and set up mirrors to reflect the sun: heliostat skylights. People are skilled in staying cheerful, shut inside small rooms for a third of the year, blazing coal fires in the hearth.

The gloomy ponderings of winter; the closed concept around things, setting boundaries around what is really open space. And it doesn’t have much meaning to the folk who live there if you say that nothing is permanent, all things arise in dependence upon multiple causes and conditions…. ah well, ho hum: one thing leads to another, is that it? Yes, well so what? There comes a time when it’s all been kind of said before and words run out.

I try to be alert, sensitive to what’s happening now… switch off the video in the head; be mindfully aware of the present. I want to deny the presence of winter, stay unattached and free, switch on all the lights in the house. It feels warmer and there’s a 300 watt halogen bulb in the standing lamp I can sit under to read a book and it feels like summertime, still…

‘… something like a level, a dimension, realm or sphere of truth, or a reality, things as they are. `The all-encompassing space’ (Trungpa Rinpoche), the element of space contains everything, contains all existence. This is the wisdom of the dharmadhatu. This word `wisdom’ means, perhaps, `gnosis’; it is knowledge which is nondualistic, knowledge which is completely one with the thing it knows, complete understanding, complete absorption into that knowledge…’ [Francesca Freemantle]

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4 thoughts on “cold denial of winter in the north

  1. I love you sharing your life like this. Your posts are always worth reading. You’re very descriptive, bring it alive well.

    I know about winter depression, actually. Had it in my youth a lot and never thought I could ever leave sunny Western Australia & live in grey Melbourne. But here I am now. Something resolved. I made peace with my past I guess.

    I don’t understand Jiab! Having coming from gloriously warm Thailand where my son & me holidayed this July, don’t understand how she’s okay with it!!

    • Jiab feels the cold yes, but doesn’t feel the depression. The cold is a novelty, and she doesn’t stay in it for too long. It must be the kind of thing Northern caucasians get stuck with more than Asians. I know what that feels like and maybe that’s why I left Scotland all those years ago. I don’t know what Melbourne is like but the thing I miss about living in the colder parts of the world is the changing seasons. In Thailand it’s the same every day. There is a kind of constant ‘reality’ about it though, or something… the kind of thing you don’t notice so much in the Northern temperate climate. Thanks for dropping in and the interesting observations.

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