Saturday, September 27, 2003

I'm remembering a time- it must have been the winter after I turned 16. Our family lived in a little cabin in the woods. To call it dilapidated would be could literally peek through the logs to see who was comign up the drive. Our woodstove was in a similar state- you could see through the rust holes in its sides when the fire was going. There was a windstorm that winter, and it happened that we ran out of firewod in the middle of it. It was so cold that the vehicles wouldn't start, and power lines were being blown down all over the county. The temps were down in the -35 to -40 range, plus 70 mph winds. We huddled around that pathetic little stove until the wood was gone, and then it became apparent that something had to be done, and quickly.

Fortuitously enough a tree blew down just 30 or 40' from the house. The other three kids, our stepdad, and myself went out to get it. We didn't really have much in the way of winterwear. I recall wearing two pairs of jeans, plus long johns, and two or three pairs of socks during any winter in that place. Our coats weren't all that warm, and the gloves were cotton work gloves, the kind that have little rubber dots all over them. The minute we stepped out the door, that wind cut right through us like a knife, and we had to brace ourselves against it to stand upright. We pulled the tree down farther, our stepdad sawed it into lengths, and we began carrying it to the house. This is the short version- in reality every step was an effort and a struggle. The firewood reached the house in time to keep the fire burning, and because our gloves were wet and we were *very* cold, the temptation to stand and dry the gloves for a moment or to exchange them for a dry pair was irresistible. We'd come in shaking profusely with a few logs, warm up a little, and then run back out again to get more wood.

Our mom got tired of that. She wanted us to leave the wood at the door and stay outside until we were through. After all, opening the door made the house cold. At first I was angry- she was cozy and warm by the wood we'd worked to cut, carry, and split, yet we couldn't partake of it's warmth ourselves, while she stayed in the house complacently. It seemed vastly unjust to me. But then, I stopped caring. Nothing mattered anymore. I just felt tired, very tired, confused, and sleepy, so I found a snowbank and curled up in it to take a nap. At the time it seemed a perfectly sane thing to do. I was exhausted. As through a dream, my sister called to me, told me to come inside. I told her I was warm, that everything was OK. She kept shaking and prodding me until I got up. Hypothermia does some pretty weird things to the mind.

And in a way, that's how I feel now; confused, disoriented, lacking perspective and objectivity, very tired, and so cold. Every so often, I get some distance from the situation, the course of action seems clear and apparent, and I try to act on it quickly, while the iron is hot. But then I'm thrust into the cold again, with the warmth of the house being only a sustaining memory, and the confusion sets in. What I need to do is to get some _serious_ distance, maybe. I've been thinking about going back east to visit my family this winter. But seems so far away.

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