Buried

We’ve been getting a lot of snow. I shoveled three times today to try and stay ahead of the falling, falling, falling snow. The water is wonderful, I said to my aching back. The water will be so nice in the summer. Green grass and flowers wouldn’t be possible without this shoveling. But apparently my back muscles are hard of hearing because they kept complaining away. Buggers.

I came in from taking out the garbage a few nights ago and the cold air stayed in my hair for a few seconds after coming inside. I stamped the snow off my feet and shook my head, and that air crossed my face like the breath of a memory. The picture of a young mother came to my mind–a pioneer story I’ve read about several times. The woman’s husband died in their tent, and she refused to enter it the night after. Instead, she pulled her children close under a blanket and spent the night sitting under the brittle sky. Cold gathering in her hair, skin, bones.

When the weather turns like this I wonder how anyone has ever survived it. The pioneers on the frozen trail, the prisoners at Auschwitz looking up at icicles on the ceiling, the soldiers in Valley Forge. Heat can be brutal too. But there’s something frightening about cold, how fast it saps. It’s the temperature of death.

So at this time of year, I’m often buried–not only in snow, but in a deep sense of gratitude for the comforts of warmth. Furnaces, fire places, hot water, warm cars, hot chocolate.

Sometimes being warm feels like a miracle.

About Melissa Y.

(Emerita) is a native of Utah and currently resides in Mapleton with her husband and four children. She graduated from BYU with a degree in communication studies and a music minor. She loves to dabble and knows a little about a lot of things but not a lot about anything.

12 thoughts on “Buried

  1. Every Winter my husband and I wonder why human beings live in these frigid climates, and like you, I have marveled that pioneers and others managed it before having our modern conveniences. It is rather amazing. Right now in New York the wind is blowing like crazy and my two sons are already back from Seminary and driving off to school. They are blessed not to have to walk in this.

    Thanks for reminding me of the great multitude of blessings we have!

  2. .. .And we’ve been getting a lot of heat. That Singapore lies a mere 60 kilometers from the equator means, actually, this “winter heat” weighs on us all year round.

    And I’ll tell you, we MISS being buried. Looking straight out my window, instead of that heavy covering of white from Bavaria, Norway and Austria—places that have, over the years, defined winter and Christmas for me—I see the bobbing head of a palm tree staring blankly at me like a dread-locked stoner.

    And an atheist stoner, at that.

    Something about a landscape buried in white lends dramatic tension to the dailiness of life. Things disappear under an ivory cloak with the hope of being unveiled in a later melt. Nature slows down, sounds are muffled, landscapes are made uniform. “In The Bleak Midwinter” we’re driven indoors, toward the hearth. Even our shoulders hunch so our head is brought closer to our hearts, as we seek shelter from life’s sharp elements. Coming inside, we escape the whip of ice, stamp off frost and feel the blood come back to our fingertips. We live that whole cold-heat, outside-inside, contraction-expansion thing.

    We’re saved.

    You’re right, MelissaY: it’s that sensation of the miraculous..

  3. Thanks for the lovely post, Melissa Y.

    Looking out my window this morning I see a landscape buried in snow. Silent, white, beautiful world. But I’m grateful to be inside my snug, warm home. I, too, love the contrast of cold and warmth during this time of year—and I’m oh so grateful for the warmth!

    And Melissa DB, your comment was lovely, as well. I hope you find some Christmas cheer amongst the heat and palm trees. Hugs!

  4. I think of what life was like before central heating was common in houses. Many times only one room was heated and the bedrooms were cold. When I change for bed I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder in The Long Winter, she changed for bed in a freezing cold room and would snuggle in bed under a mountain of blankets and a bed warmer for her feet. I am thankful I don’t have to do that. I am also thankful I can find a warm refuge from the wind and cold and snow when we get it. It really is a miracle.

  5. I often wonder in the cold months how anyone could survive too. I always think of the book Little Women when they carry hot potatoes in their pockets to keep their hands warm.
    The last few years we’ve kept the heat down to keep our bills down and I am always amazed at my children’s abillity to adapt to the cold. We use extra sweaters and the girls like to wear their bathrobes around the house.
    I can’t imagine spending a night in the snow with my children though. I am also greatful for feeling warm.

  6. A white, cold Christmas is totally beyond my understanding, though I am keen to try it one day!

    Beautiful post, and heartwarming words. Thank you!

  7. Thank you for the lovely comments. I confess, a warm climate and palm trees sound heavenly right now–we got another two feet of snow overnight. The kids are having a great time, though.

  8. Can I drop in some gorgeous borrowed words on winter from writer Greta Ehrlich? In her The Solace of Open Spaces (about her life in Wyoming) is the chapter, “The Smooth Skull of Winter”. Four pages of restrained, precise brilliance.

    Ehrlich writes:

    “On winter solstice it is thirty-four degrees below zero and there is very little in the way of daylight. The deep ache of this audacious Arctic air is also the ache in our lives made physical. Patches of frostbite show up on our noses, toes, and ears. Skin blisters as if cold were a kind of radiation to which we’ve been exposed. It strips what is ornamental in us. Part of the ache we feel is also a softness growing. Our connections with neighbors—whether strong or tenuous, as lovers or friends—become too urgent to disregard.. . .Twenty or thirty below makes the breath we exchange visible: All of mine for all of yours. It is the tacit way we express the intimacy we talk about.”

    Lovely, huh? Maybe it’s that contrast of isolation-intimacy that I miss the most by not being buried in cold and snow this year. In the icy isolation of Winter Quarters, Auschwitz and Valley Forge—cold that cannot be romanticized, but is, instead, the temperature of death you write of so well, Melissa—humans found what Ehrlich calls a “profound camaraderie.”

    Maybe—and this is soft speculation from the cushy warmth of the tropics—in that camaraderie they also found God.

  9. Love this post. While we are not getting snow here, we are getting tons of rain! I, too, have taken time to think of the Pioneers walking, sleeping, doing everything in the rain.

  10. Aaah, yes–LOTS of rain here, too! I like the snow when the sun is gleaming off of it… but dreary cold days are difficult for me to appreciate.

    On the other hand, I daily appreciate the gift of clean, running water. When I rinse a dish, brush my teeth, or wash my hands I think, “This is cool.” I don’t really know where that comes from–I have never lived without it (besides camping), but somehow I am aware that some people’s entire days are planned around how they will obtain the day’s ration of water.

    And I relish being warm and being able to warm my children, too. Can you imagine seeing your children freezing (and freezing yourself) and not know when any of you would feel warm again?

  11. I think of what life was like before central heating was common in houses. Many times only one room was heated and the bedrooms were cold. When I change for bed I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder in The Long Winter, she changed for bed in a freezing cold room and would snuggle in bed under a mountain of blankets and a bed warmer for her feet. I am thankful I don’t have to do that. I am also thankful I can find a warm refuge from the wind and cold and snow when we get it. It really is a miracle.

  12. It really IS a miracle. Our electricity often goes out during winter storms, and I am doubly appreciative for the warmth and comfort our home brings.

    Sometimes I am just grateful for a bed to snuggle into at night. I realize that far too many do not have this blessing.

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