December 19th, 2013

The Long-Johns Are Out of the Bottom Drawer

Today on the island it’s bitter cold.

Bitter cold. It’s a cliche, but really nothing else will do. It is bitter, biting cold. And snow has been forecast for the weekend.

When I moved from Hawai’i to Washington many years ago, 18 years ago to be exact, the reality of living in a city where snow was a possibility was novel.

And then it happened, my first year of living on Capitol Hill with my boyfriend. It snowed so much there were people on skis out on the street, just to move about. And kids, non-stop, screaming as they sledded down Thomas Avenue on flipped trashcan lids. The echo of that keeps pinging around my head today, again, such a novel happening.

Buses were stalled, willy-nilly all about the city. Like a scene from a disaster movie. And I remember Alex and I walked to the Cinerama theater that afternoon to see — what? — one of the Star Wars movies? Or maybe not. But I do remember the world ceasing; the shocking quiet, the peculiar light — because of so much snow.

Obviously, Christmas was wonderful that December. From Hawaiian palm trees to Seattle street lamps piled with mini-mountains of white.

Watching that sight — of the streetlamp with the snow ridge up top and the halo of light that illuminated each particle of ice that fell into its nimbus — in the night, from our bedroom window, hedged-’round with old-fashioned Christmas lights (the big bulb kind) — it all feels timeless. Now. 18 years later.

As we prepare for snowfall on Vashon.

Time and Christmases past collide into one another; or pile-up into a stack is a better way of putting it. Most likely because our sharpest memories come from the excitement, the wishes, the colors, the sounds, the change of heart in our caretakers — all of those marked sensations and impressions — related to the season. How odd. The mystery of memory and Christmas.

Ouspensky once noted that as we look back on our lives we recall, easily, the moments that we were most awake and alive — immersed in essence — because those were the actual moments that we were imbued and present. If essence isn’t present then what is there to remember? Why bother? It’s all a blur when we sleepwalk through life. So that notion has always made sense to me.

So the bitter cold made me pull out my old red long-johns that Alex had given to me as a Christmas present that first Christmas in Seattle in my first big snow. And I walked for miles around the island this afternoon, swearing that I’d bitten off more than I could chew, mid-way through my walk, when my face was numb and discomfort was giving way to regret. But I forged on.

Got home and the cat was howling for dinner. She knows nothing about the season. Just tuna.

And I lit the lights around the Buddha.

I’ll probably do the same tomorrow, in the fresh snow — go for a walk. Light lights when I get home. Feed the cat. It’s something we do here in Washington.

Photograph: Tramp Harbor from Dockton Road, Vashon by F. Woodruff

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