Monday, January 27, 2014

Strike a match

I'm in battle. The dark, deep-freeze winter has stolen so many things I love — outdoor walks, energy to write when I get home from work, sunbeams. 

I know it's not really a fight. I just have to wait her out. My task is to find alternative sources of warmth. 

There's the physical sources. Strike a match, for instance. I do so at least once a day. There's comfort in a spontaneous blue flame. Upon getting home from work, I habitually light the candles in my kitchen, and later incense sticks on my bedstand. 

Then there's my Rennai heater. With pushes of a button, the heat can easily be cranked to 70 degrees. I warm my feet with it while I wait for dinner to cook, sometimes soup or pasta or a baked potato.

But, I'm finding that these sources of comfort are as quickly extinguished as they are lit or turned up. That I need something more long-lasting. I hesitate to say that this search becomes one of spirituality at the risk of my mother telling me to go to church. 

I woke up Friday to face another frigid day, my bedroom window crusted with hoar frost. My first thought was to nuzzle my head under the blankets and pretend it was still night. I fought that urge with second thought: You're not tired. Get your ass out of bed.

And then another phrase came to mind. Not my own this time, but one from an article I read the week before: Build your own damn house. It came from the founder of the Trouble coffee shops in San Francisco. The article tracked the origins of the artisan toast to Giulietta Carrelli, who struggled for years to stay employed due to mental illness. The phrase became her motto when she finally decided to start her own business, Trouble, and build something that would not only keep her employed but also allow her build a support network to better manage her illness. (The article is quite well written. Read it here.)

While my own emotional slump is certainly less drastic, Guilietta's do-it-yourself attitude seemed like a sound approach. Rather than waiting for more pleasing circumstances to return (presumably with the warm weather), I resolved to create for myself a reason to get out of bed.

With that, I did. I fired up my computer and crafted an email to a nearby youth center asking if they might be able use a volunteer — with experience teaching English and working with inner-city youth — who had mornings free.

I later described my burst of animation to my friend Harum. She suggested that my email header might have appropriately read "Please, give my life meaning." We both laughed because it was true.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Come bearing bagels

Vermont's cold and ice has kept me in self-imposed isolation that's proved hard to shake. Outside of yoga and work, little can lure me outdoors. I'm content to spend the day in bed, which I did on Saturday.

Today, however, I had no excuses. The temperature was predicted to register in the upper 40s, and I'd promised my Aunt Jani and Uncle Louis that I would cross the lake for a visit. Louis made it clear he would prefer I arrive with an offering from my neighborhood's Montreal-style bagel maker.

When I finally dragged myself out of bed, I'd reserved less than a half hour to get dressed, make the bagel pickup and drive to the ferry. The Essex-Charlotte ferry, which is the fastest way to get to Essex from Burlington, has cut back its runs to once an hour for the winter season. Missing the ferry by a few minutes means the hourlong trip suddenly turns to two.

I threw on a dress over the legging and tank top that I wore to bed and managed to brush my teeth before rushing out the door and across the street where I bought a baker's dozen of still-warm bagels. With the bag in arm, I skidded across the icy parking lot to my car and drove (faster than the law allows) to the ferry launch.

At five past ten, I rounded the last corner relieved to see the ferry was still at the dock, but not for long. The dock was chained off, a sign that they would lift the plank at any moment.

I jolted into the parking lot and jumped out of the car to wave at the crew before plucking the bag of bagels from the seat. The two men took pity on me and pulled back the chain as I scissor stepped my way across the ice (careful to keep both feet on the ground lest I lose balance). They waved me on board and replaced the chain.

No sooner had the motor kicked on than three more cars pulled up to the dock. The men looked back as the ferry chugged forward.

"Guess they'll be drinking puddle water," one said.

Grateful they hadn't left me to drink puddle water, I broke my baker's dozen and offered the two a bagel. They accepted.

Once I upstairs in the heated passenger cabin,  I called my Aunt Jani. "Put on the coffee," I told her. "I've got the bagels."

Incoming view of  Essex

Baker's dozen of Myer's Montreal-style bagels

Monday, January 6, 2014

Coming down

The holiday is truly over.

I dispatched the last of my Christmas gifts yesterday when my friend Christine came across Lake Champlain to share a fancy brunch at a well-trafficked French Bistro. We ordered eggs Benedict on rice cakes and salmon tartare.

She dropped me off at my empty apartment; I had brought my friend Harum, who had been with me for a week, to the train station the previous morning.

It was time to face the list of phone calls and emails that I had put off. Time to go to the grocery store so I'd have healthy meals and snacks on hand, rather than filling in the gaps with cookies.

In the late afternoon, I slipped into a candlelight yoga class with my favorite teacher and caught up for tea with a friend. I returned home with a bag of fresh fruits and veggies.

Breakfast this morning: fruit and granola.