Winter Warriors

Waking at zero to a frigid house, I imagine my body’s systems slowing, like the insects whose steady production of glycol keeps them from freezing inside.

This first three-dog night of January surrenders into a two-nap afternoon for me as I expand into an empty house for the first time in forever–at least without the constant clamor of the holidays.

The clutter of Christmas creates such a contrast in its absence that our home mirrors the bare bones outside. I spend the day indoors, in silence, beside the woodstove, steeped in the frozen world around me.

New Year’s.

The thing I appreciate about the illusion of time is that provokes me to start anew, to reset. I relish in new beginnings… sharpened pencils, crisp calendars, a freshly cleaned room.

Just before New Year’s, my husband and I lost all the work we invested–4 months of financial data–with the tap of the wrong key. This, after we committed to getting our finances clean over the holiday break.

The simple loss of an online checkbook launches me into a darkness that matches the shortest days, and seems small-minded considering the hardships of others–cancer diagnoses, house fires, tragic accidents.  Nonetheless, in the span of an afternoon, I hit bottom, leaning my head against the post that holds up our house as if I could no longer stand on my own.

Strikingly, the next morning, I wake free. Free of the whining I did every weekend in the face of figuring out our finances. Free to begin again.  With a new attitude. And so we do. On New Year’s Eve.

While others head out to parties, my husband and I devote the entire evening toward reconfiguring what was lost; and we accomplish this, just before midnight; feeling weary, but warrior-like–capable of anything!

We wake the next morning to a flat tire, a leaking sink and a clogged dishwasher. My husband attends to these while I examine our finances in the light of day–determining that we overspent in way too many categories for way too many months to rebound naturally.

The irony of this mismanagement is that this is first chapter in our parental lives that we are both gainfully employed; while at other times, we’ve creatively dealt with months of unemployment without accruing any debt.

Thus, this first day of the New Year seemed a sour omen for 2012–or a quickening of everything harsh we must traverse to reach toward something new. It takes another day to surrender into this latter orientation, but surprisingly we do, with gusto.

Like the wooly bear caterpillar in the Arctic whose darkness enables him to absorb the solar heat, we embrace the light ahead no matter how harsh the cold.

Kelly Salasin, January 2012

p.s. Throughout its life, the woolly bear caterpillar of the Arctic freezes and thaws a total of thirteen times.

To read more about life’s freezing and thawing, click here.

the deva in the darkness

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me–a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic–or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

by Denise Levertov


I wonder why we’re so quick to reach toward the Sun on Solstice.

Why do we dismiss the gift of the darkness?

Sipping margaritas under the summer sun is simpler. Much simpler.

I’ve read that the days leading up to Solstice are the most feminine of the year–a time of pause, of rest, of surrender. Winter’s yin to summer’s yang.

I need that.

Why do I fight it then? (Curse it, even!)

Why do I place a higher value on the expression on my yang than on the yin which necessarily conceives it?

This Solstice day is a dark one in New England. I’ve lit my tree and my staircase and my wreath to make Holy the darkness. In this week before Christmas, I’ve opted for extra yoga classes instead of the gym–seeking that which is slow and restorative to anything more invigorating.

My doctor calls, suggesting an upgrade with my progesterone cream–offsetting the havoc inflicted by my shifting hormones.

I’m hesitant to claim the relief.

Do I not deserve it? Wouldn’t I prefer to be my usual, satisfied self?

These are the questions I ponder in my therapist’s chair.

She tells me that some women say that it is their PMS self that is their truest reflection.

Am I an edgy, agitated, easily-irritated woman?

I can be.

Do I want to be?

I’m surprised to discover that, right now, I do. I prefer her. She fits. She has something important to say.

Annie Dillard writes that, How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

This morning I wake in self-love, the first I’ve felt in weeks. Gone is my fractured mind and my ever-present angst. My body is tired, but I feel whole. Still. Contained. Embraced.

I open my computer, and watch as that changes. With each click of the mouse, my mind wakes to the day. My fingers speed over the keys, delighting in the rapid succession of taps. Despite this engaging stimulation, my wellbeing begins to fray.

When I click on my browser, I am at once overwhelmed by how many pages I work at one time. I close all but one, and then suffer the lack of efficiency.

I resist the urge to check email while a page is loading. I don’t scan Facebook. I stay present to the site that is open in front of me. Even though nothing is happening. Even though I am bored. Even though this is impractical.

I witness how my thoughts race ahead of my body. I bring them back. I am gentle.

Slowly my sweet sense of sanity fractures away. The phone rings. An email comes through. A Facebook chat chimes. The Christmas cd skips. I have to pee.

Had there been sun–or hormones–I wouldn’t have noticed any of this…

This is how I live my life.

This is its cost.

This is the darkness illuminating the price tag.

Kelly Salasin, December 21, 2011

To read more on self & the holidays, click here.

To read more about the Sun and Winter Solstice, click here.