Friday, January 3, 2014


Day 3 of Fun-a-Day: the ArtClash Collective's amazing art-piece a day commitment for the month of January. I chose blog-a-day.

So I am sitting in my living room, it's 8:30 p.m. at night. The temperature is -6 outside. I am cold.

There is a raging wood stove fire burning right in front of me, maybe 6 feet away at most. I am cold.

I am wearing a winter hat, long johns, and a poly fleece. Oh, and Smart Wool socks. I am cold.

Moving to Vermont, I knew that the first winter would be both exciting and terrifying. The extremity of weather, the rural spaciousness, the multi-generation families (of which we are becoming one) on the same land, in the same houses-- all of this is totally new to me. I've survived, thrived even in the vast space around me. I have not felt lonely very often these past four months. I am busy with parenting, farm planning, unpacking, and the welcome of neighbors and family has been stellar.

The experience of the depth of family has been intriguing and educational. I am unlearning my suspicion of biological families (see my post about my experience). I am seeing the slow arch of traditional family that I can learn a lot from, and do. Hell, I've got dead matriarchs talking to me.

realtime photo, complete with wood ash and humidifier--
winters in Vermont are dry
But the weather. I grew up in Rhode Island, a southern state in this New England. Although I have memories of cold that whipped my legging-clad teenage body into a frigid frenzy, I have rarely experienced a cold that seems to seep through the walls like this.

Well, maybe. Now I am remembering a winter-- 1996, living in Boston, the snow was brutal, the cold creeping into every crevice. I was living in a group house on Belmont Avenue in Somerville. It was freezing because the landlord never insulated the house. We sat, wrapped in blankets, watching Mystery Science Theater 2000, trying to ignore the fact that the best and warmest way to sleep was not alone. Luckily, at that time, there were 5 cats who chose to sleep with me. I survived that winter.

But this house is different. An old beaut, circa 1860s, it has been added to over the decades with care and correctness. And the aunt whose care this house has been in for the last 20 years had a vision of energy efficiency and self-sufficiency that led to really wise insulation and retrofitting choices.

The household item that has become so much the center of our life this winter is the wood stove. It is a small thing, but mighty. Aunt Sally chose both for efficiency and for aesthetic, not wanting it to dominate the room.

Most mornings my son and I stumble down the stairs and plop ourselves in front of the stove, where I rake the coals and add a log. A good morning is when the wood lights, and we are golden warm. We eat breakfast and lunch in front of this stove, some days. I sit and write here, for now.  I am learning what I read about in college-- the primacy of the hearth, the warmth that makes it all okay, when the outside is not so friendly.

I am reminded of Hestia, goddess of the hearth. I get her, now. I don't think I could have until I felt this gathering warmth, daily.

But now, I am cold. In the same room as this mighty mini, is the front door. Like most old homes, the front door is rarely used. But it does show the cold. In this photo, you see that our living room HAS SNOW GROWING ON IT. This is our threshold, and this big hunk of granite is conducting the cold from the steps into our living room.

I know that this winter isn't even half over yet, but it's feeling like a lot to handle, just this moment.  The weather feels so much like a person that I have to get to know-- a prickly person with whom you might not want to work, but that you have no choice about knowing on a daily basis.

Hello, winter.  Nice to meet you. Please don't hurt me.


  1. I remember that ice on that threshold 45 years ago!

    1. glad to bring back memories for you! it's a very special place.