I woke up under flannel sheets, a down comforter, a soft waffle like blanket and a quilt. I was wearing wool knee socks, sweatpants, work out shorts, a tank top and a black hoodie with the hood on. I thought to myself what a pansy I’ve become in the cold. A year spent in Central America and I now need an exorbitant amount of layers to warmly sleep. I had been so ready for the cold, mentally preparing for it like a boxer before a match. Mouthguard in and jittery on my toes, the cold basically knocked me off my feet.
I have never minded winters in the northeast. Often, on a sunny day, it’s really quite beautiful. Spindly skeletal trees, blacks and browns against a vibrant blue sky. They can look as delicate as coral bending and swaying in the chill wind. But I know I’m waxing idyllic here. It can also be so brutally cold that the only time you’re outdoors is the walk from your house to your car and back again. Your eyelashes freeze every time you blink and every inhale feels like lacerations on your lungs.
This might sound awful, however, there is something in this that makes me feel utterly and unbelievably alive. More alive than swimming in the ocean, more alive than drinking fresh juice from a pipa, more alive than gazing at the voluptuous greenery in the forest I left quite recently. It’s the way we breathe during the winter. The way the cold air fills your lungs, the shock of it like jumping from a hot tub into snow (yes, we do that in the northeast). The exhale visible, almost tangible like shaking a fresh dusting of snow off of pine boughs. Each breath a visceral reminder that you’re here and you’re alive. I actually missed this while I was away and just like an enthusiastic kid jumping into a pile of leaves, I am equally as excited to be breathing this air again.
Rumi said, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love, it will not lead you astray.” For the next little bit of life, that strange pull will be the snow, the arctic air, the most authentic experience I know of truly feeling alive- breathing in the cold.