There is something about when it hits thirty below.
Any time I step outside I can’t help but think of Jack London - my child self reading “To Build A Fire” perhaps a bit young and dramatically envisioning myself freezing before I could make it home from the bus stop on windy winter days in the Helena Valley. I can laugh at that now, and little Madeline not really knowing the difference between a few degrees below zero and really hitting the danger zone.
The weather the past few days has been something else. Some of the coldest I’ve experienced here in Montana, even out of the wind now, living in the sheltered woods of the Northern Rockies. I feel like I’m in one of those books when I go outside, I admit - I did spit at -32 this morning just to see if it would freeze before it hit the ground, unlike the story I couldn’t hear it land, though I think it was likely that it did. Last night there were several times when I woke to what sounded almost like a gunshot - a loud CRACK! POP! That I assume was some unfortunate tree freezing - the wood splintering as the water expanded inside of it.
Cold like this brings us back to ourselves in a way, like reading Jack London, a real reminder that nature is bigger than us. We have to focus on the basics - Keep the wood stove burning - keep the pipes from freezing - brave air so cold it makes you ache the moment you step out into it to bring in more firewood - we’re going through it fast. Don’t let the stir crazy dog out for more than a minute or so.
It brings a lot of gratitude into focus. For our little cottage, for the iron wood stove, for the firewood and the friends who helped us split and stack it all. For myself - as someone living with chronic pain issues that this bitter cold cause to flare up - I’m especially grateful not to be going it alone. The dogs and the hauling of firewood would be a lot to manage.
But then - I often find myself feeling downtrodden when I don’t feel like I’m pulling my weight - or “lifting my end of the log” as my in-laws put it when talking about necessary group work. When it’s cold like this though - I find myself in quite the opposite mood. Even as I’m aching I can sit here and keep the fire going - at my wheel or with needles in hand. While every time someone has to go outside they wrap themselves in wool against the chill - cowls and hats keep frost bite from their faces - which can occur in only minutes on days like today - and double lined mittens keep feeling in fingers - wool socks layered in snow boots in toes.
Wool does all the wonderful things we love it for - insulating and resisting water, wicking sweat as we work in the cold. It has value, but much less so without those of us who can work it. So remember that, if you too are hunkering down and find yourself doing the rhythmic work of spinning yarns or making fabric one stitch at a time. When it comes down to it really, our work is perhaps worth more than we realize.
My spouse creature - face wrapped and head covered against the biting cold, refilling our wood box yet again, as night falls, certainly thinks so.
I hope you all are warm, well, and feeling valued.