It’s the deep, serious stage of winter. The cat litter box fills all too regularly. We all hunker down and seek out the sources of warmth; the nearest floor register, wall vent or dog bed. There are prime spots in the house and they are coveted by the inhabitants, particularly during the sunny parts of the day. At night, it’s every being for itself to find a spot off the cooling floors and near another body for warmth.
I used to be more in tune with their rhythms and routines. Working at the store has meant a shift in my interactions with their world and I miss it. It was also warmer in the house when I was here all day, every day. Being out in the world, however small, has heightened other senses. The sense of community, of being recognized daily by fellow inhabitants of a different building. A different ecosystem has emerged.
I think back to those nights on the farm; descending to the warm basement to don layers and stomp down the steps through the crunching snow to the barn. When the door cracked open over the frozen sill, and the smell of hay and animal warmth washed over me. Flicking on the lights with an apology as sleepy heads rose above the stall doors and blinky eyes looked out at the intrusion. At the time, I didn’t think about the memories I was making; throwing sweet flakes of hay, checking water for the ice skim and adjusting winter blankets against the chill. On the way back to the house, I would often stop to look up at the blue-gray sky, illuminated by a far-off moon as only a winter night can dazzle, the stars standing out on a sea of dark satin.
What I notice most are the smells. Wood smoke from the fire clinging to my hair, the raw animal smells that close quarters bring on. OK perhaps a bit of urine from the litter box and one inhabitant of the “Four-Legged Senior Center” of Temple, NH who is finding the long hours of confinement difficult. There is a closeness to the air, a density that is blown out with summer breezes the rest of the year. I miss too, the lazy long days of following the shadows on the porch as the heat of the sun warmed the wood below my bare feet. Tonight the snow protests my footfalls, crunching loudly with each step.
The salt stains on the cars, the icy patches on the roads and the layers of clothing obscuring familiar faces will melt again into familiarity and atmospheric warmth. For now, I need to keep a keen eye toward what makes this season unique and beautiful.
The forecast is for wind-chills below zero tonight. Winter is upon me…