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December 2022 – Blog 20 -Marji Hines
It seems winter came a bit earlier this year in our valley. Overnight temperatures have dropped to single digits now for several weeks. Snowfall that for the most part usually melts by the afternoon, has lingered like an unwanted guest. Daytime temperatures have struggled to climb much above the 20’s and 30’s.. Pogonip, [• \PAH-guh-nip\ • noun. : a dense winter fog containing frozen particles that is formed in deep mountain valleys of the western United States -Webster] has blanketed many mornings leaving a beautiful but deadly coating of frost on the surrounding pines and bare branches. The first peoples named and knew of its treachery. This is indeed a ‘winter wonderland’ with everything flocked in sparkling frost. More pleasantly viewed from inside. Outside… it’s just plain cold.
We have a wood-stove in the center of our home that helps; an addition to the ground source heat units installed when we first built here. But, this year the electric coil back up system has come on several times as the ground source of heat wasn’t sufficient. Dust on the coils, never used in 20 + years, emitted the reminiscent smell of a forced air furnace first starting up in the fall.
“Smell that?” my husband asked the other morning.
“Yes. What is it?”
“The electric coils have engaged. The ground’s temperature is not supplying enough heat. That’s how cold it is outside…”
I love looking at the snow, but I’m not a winter sports enthusiast. I’m thrilled that others enjoy it; I just never learned to ski. When younger, I enjoyed a little sledding, and fumble/stumbled my way a bit on ice skates, but that was when I used to have to drive to a skating rink, or into the mountains for a snow ‘play day’– another life, another time. Living in this valley where snow is a winter ‘given’ has made me appreciate nature’s process, where this time of hibernation for wildlife becomes a time of reflection for us.
I sit with my mug of hot tea, mind wandering, aimlessly gazing fondly out the window, marveling at the beauty until a thought pulls me abruptly back.
There are so many, just a short distance away in town, and even more across the oceans in other countries for which cold weather isn’t something associated with beauty. Many are homeless from life, choice, or circumstance. And lately, even more are homeless because of war. The fern patterns on my frozen window pane hint at the horror. What must it be like having to survive and live in constant cold with no idea of when or if one will ever feel warm again? I shiver and clutch my mug closer for warmth.
What a luxury heat suddenly seems. What an under-acknowledged blessing–easy to take for granted until it’s gone or taken away. We’ve been so fortunate in our country. We haven’t had to survive bombs randomly falling from the sky. The closest I’ve come to just a glimpse of that terror is during thunderstorms, where lightning strikes with terrifying ground-shaking explosions of noise echoing across the mountains. ‘This must be what war sounds like,’ I remember thinking, but the victims of bombs suffer much more than the shock and alarm of a loud boom.
I continue pondering and have the incredulous luxury of wondering, what would it be like if it were my home that was destroyed? What would I do? Where would I go (if I even survived)?
People die in wars; lives are forever changed; infrastructure and history is decimated…and then, as though that’s not enough trauma, it’s winter and cold…bitter cold. Safe shelter is gone; water is gone; power is gone; fuel is gone; there’s no way to get warm; clothing and blankets can only do so much; and day by day, minute by minute the bombs… keep… coming. Callously they rain down; stealing everything familiar, destroying any remaining innocence.
Simple daily tasks become dangerous challenges. Everything you need to survive compels you to exit whatever shelter you’ve found and risk the randomness of the sky falling.
It is a literal ‘Russian Roulette’ so many Ukrainians work to survive every day; just trying to do any one of the necessary things we take for granted here…
The item I need isn’t in the local store? No worries, I’ll just order it online. The room is cold, I’ll just turn up the thermostat and put the kettle on to make cocoa or tea. Maybe I’ll just take a long soak in a warm tub. I’m hungry so I’ll cook something. The lights went out but that’s no problem, I can turn on our generator or get our battery lights out of storage. The power will be restored shortly. I’m tired, I can be warm and safe in bed… How quickly everything that makes life ‘normal’ for us can disappear.
We pride our recent experiences ‘surviving’ Covid with its lock downs, shortages, and inconveniences. We have come through that storm and now only have to deal with a few delivery delays and product shortages. We are privileged to still bemoan or ignore the recommendations to wear masks indoors for protection from Flu, Covid, and RSV virus.. “Haven’t we resolved that Covid thing?” I heard someone ask in line at a store recently, “I thought we were through with that.”
“No.” It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. That ‘Covid thing’ is going to be an ever-present malady that still threatens us– mildly or seriously depending on our vaccines, immunity, age, and pre-existing conditions.
I recently heard Covid’s permanence referred to as, ‘…like the Flu; a seasonal, reoccurring phenomenon.” But, living with the ‘Flu’, doesn’t pose the same upset as living with war. Most of us, experiencing the Flu, still have our homes, heat, water, food, medicines–we still have our ‘normal’.
This season of “Peace on Earth” still comes regardless of current events. We yearn for the impossible, possible, but our experience on this side of the looking glass pales in comparison to the experiences of those on the other side– those who live where the sky is falling. We pray, we hope, we contribute and wait for things to get better for all who are suffering. We struggle to find a comparison; to empathize or understand their experience within our sheltered lives here among so many blessings:
- Our beds
- The pillow for our heads
- The blankets and roofs overhead
- Friends and Family
- Health, happiness, and home
- Plenty to eat and the choice of what, how much, and when
- Hot running water
- A safe place to rest
- we are indeed truly blessed.
It may be a forlorn hope, but I pray this Holiday Season’s blessings sustain and comfort those in hardship here and around the world. May we remember others going through trials, and be thankful for our times of grace. May we embrace each day and not take life for granted. May we strive for Peace on Earth and Good Will towards all. May everyone’s ‘Normal’ be returned…
and may we all find a way to be warm.