It is a quiet morning, with the grass as white and stiff as can be. The ground is not iron hard, yet. It does not have that ring to it with each step, but the grass is, and crunches satisfactorily underfoot. The wind is still today, but there is a whole day to come.
I, personally, am happy today. Some days are up, some are down, and this time of year I fight for every good feeling I can; but today is good. The unicorn meat eating cats roost on the bed, or near the small, electric heater near their food, and the dog warms his butt on my leg. My old dog, the service animal known as Eddie, would never have done that: he was large and fat, and liked the cold, but it's a new day. And so now, I have a small, hound-like dog that likes to snuggle and positively takes my breath away, sometimes, with his warmth.
Harry Golden, the author, once remarked that it's not that we like adverse weather, but that we enjoy the feeling of proof against it: how lovely it is to cuddle up and watch that snow storm, or driving rain, outside, knowing that we do not have to go out in it. I cannot think of a time that humankind would not have felt that way...
And that's how I was able to take Max, the dog, out to his line this morning, and search for Ratty, the chief of the unicorn meat eating cats, who went out at the same time and decided to tour the world, while he was at it. I knew I would come back in to warmth and a white, ceramic Christmas tree, with multi-colored lights, and a hot cup of coffee.
Of course, being of worrying kind of mind, I wish well to those animals and humans who had no proof against the cold last night, and spend some time thinking of how to alleviate that situation.
One year, I worked in a soup kitchen. One year I gave a shopping bag full of new, warm clothes to a woman I saw sitting outside a nursing home, every morning. One year, I took in a cat, who promptly had her kittens in my laundry room. (I had her, and her son and daughter, Frodo and Bilbo, forever.) One year I bought luxury groceries for a friend on a very tight budget; strawberries, meat, that kind of thing.
I haven't figured out how I will soothe my conscience this year. But I hear Catawba Hospital, over the mountain, is a mental health institution for the poor and otherwise indigent. They need small gifts of clothing, and toiletries for those patients who have no caring families, or families at all. I think they will be the 'giftees' this year. And I might be able to throw in a toy, or blanket for the local pound...
I have already warned friends and family that it will be a 'tight' year for me. But, as proof against the hardening of the world, I will bake the cake loaves I usually bake, and make some room in the stable of my heart for those who have less and need more. Even one $5 rope toy, for some lost dog on death row in the local pound, alleviates the burden of suffering that the world bears.
I say this as someone who has not had 2 one dollar bills to rub together---as an artist, I took a vow of poverty at the age of 12. And there have been years, as a person with disabilities, that I have not been able to afford to help others. But this year I have shelter and food, and my animal loves have food, so it's a year I can.
So I warm myself by that fire this morning. I live in the luxury of coffee, and plenty of food, and shelter. I have cake mixes and nuts and dried fruits that I will brandish at the world in defiance of its seeming coldness. I will read Tasha Tudor's tales of her corgis and Swedish-like Christmas, and the ragged book of Christmas stories that my Mother got for her birthday, during WW II. I will spend time with Truman Capote's "The Christmas Story."
I will smell the scents, and walk on the hard ground, and touch the rapidly cooling trunks of the trees. I will hold a pine branch and breath its sharp scent, and marvel at its smooth and yet prickly texture. I will rustle the leaves today, all ground colored now, and fallen. I will note the blue hue of the sky, and think about the deep, deep secrets of the fragile earth, and in particular, the brightness of the red berries that come in wintertime, here.