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Old Enough and Cold Enough

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

I was a big hitchhiker. Well, first I was a little hitchhiker, starting as I did when I was 10 years old, thumbing a ride from where we lived on the outskirts of my suburban town to the town center and back again. Later on, when I attended the University of Connecticut I would hitchhike the 40 miles home on many Fridays. I was young and pretty. There were a lot of drivers going my way. Those were different days.

Dad would drive me back out to school on Sundays. Rather, since he preferred the passenger seat, I would drive. On one autumn Sunday some 40 years ago while we were doing just that, he asked me to close the car window. I protested that the fresh air was good. He retorted, "Wait until you get old." It's happened; I am now the age that he was then. And I'm cold.

I spoke with a man last week in the Saturday Market, during the cold snap we had. He was wearing shorts. Not recognizing his face, I asked him where he was from. He told me that he lived here. I guessed correctly that he was a recent arrival, divining this from two factors: one, I didn't recognize his face and, two, he was wearing shorts on a cold day.

I used to laugh at Mexicans wearing winter coats on warmish, sunny days. But I feel like that after 8 years residence here, my blood has changed. Shorts, tee shirt and sandals are still my preferred mode of dress, but the cold gets to me more than it used to. Maybe I've become more Mexican, acclimatizing to this latitude. Maybe it's because I'm old.

Around the winter solstice, with the sun at its southernmost, the room I use as my office gets uncomfortably cold. This, I know, is because we are 6,000 feet up in the mountains. And I know that your house gets cold, too.

But my office gets cold also because, for a few weeks, during these shortest days, the house across the little alley on which I live, casts its big fat shadow upon my single storey abode from mid-afternoon onward.

True, by each late morning the sun is out in force, bathing my roof and south wall. It beats on my front door. I open up and let it in, lighting and warming up the frigidity within.

But, before this, for the first 2-3 hours of the day I am inside, the atmosphere dim and chilled, bundled up in front of the computer, drinking tea, eating mandarin oranges, writing, working on my computer.

I realized, snowshoeing up in northern Vermont, that getting cold for a while outside is easier to tolerate when you know that there is a fiery wood stove waiting for you inside. Still of that opinion, I endure this morning chill knowing that a sunbath is waiting for me up on the roof.

After these hours of productive labor, I cut up some fruit, carrying it, my yoga mat and my audio-book player up to the roof above my landlady's second storey home, where I eat and stretch out and listen for the better part of an hour.

The contrast is great, emerging from the chilly seclusion of my creative monastic cell into the bright day. The difference is obvious just exiting into my first floor patio, still in shadows. But climbing the spiral staircase up to the second floor and then ascending to the third is nothing short of entering a different world. Up there is a land of brilliant light and tropical fruit, requiring sunglasses and a lot less clothes.

***

Whether you're "Yo, ho, ho" or "Bah, humbug," 't'is the season for festivals of light. Christmas was placed in December, even though the Nazarene was born in spring, to cover the pagan celebration of Saturnalia. Despite that Christian usurpation, the festivities, rowdy, raucous Saturnalia, continued unabated until Charles Dickens reinvented Christmas with his sentimental Christmas Carol. (I have been listening to Dickens for over six months now, courtesy of librivox.org, while I do my rooftop yoga each morning. What a master storyteller he is.) I'm guessing they picked the 25th of December because by then, four days after the solstice, you can tell that the days are getting longer, that we have turned a corner.

Maybe it's because the days are getting longer. Maybe it's because the weather has warmed and I'm back in short pants. But I feel like a bear waking from hibernation and leaving his den. I feel like I do exiting the chill for my morning sunbath. I feel refreshed, younger and hopeful, like it's going to be a great new year. I hope yours is, too.

Youthful optimism aside, I'm old enough and cold enough and know that winter has just started. The morning chill may be all right for youngsters, tourists and new arrivals, but, recently, I've arrived at the age where a radiant heater is in the cards.

**************

Dr David is looking for authors to contribute to San Miguel Sunday. He is also looking for people who want to add more meaning to their lives. See his new website below.

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