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Lions Roar : November 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN NoveMBer 2009 32 above the chill of the floor, as i tiptoe past two boys sleeping in the next room and smile at the gift of their being there. i crouch in front of the wood stove, assemble a small pile of kindling over a curl of birch bark, and reach for matches— striking into another wonder: fire in a box. access to life-giv- ing heat with one measly flick of the wrist. i add a few lengths of chopped wood, content in knowing that in less than an hour, the house will be warm again. in the meantime, i slide into snow pants and reach for my boots, as- tronaut-sized clunkers that come up to my knees. i pull on my coat and, lastly, i add mittens so cozy that they’re like tiny du- vets. i give my fingers a moment to wiggle around their soft surroundings before heading outside. the air is so cold it slaps my face, lifting my energy in- stantly. i listen to my heart pick up its pace, feel it in my ears, its determination to keep me alive. turning, i face a rare sight in these parts: the sun. today there is a thick yolk of light surfacing on the horizon and the sky is a mexican ceramic blue. inhaling, i reach up, touch the tips of my mittens togeth- er. exhaling, i pull a piece of the sky to my heart. inhaling, i arch back into an invocation of flexibility, fearlessness, a willingness to bend toward what i cannot see. exhaling, i bend forward to touch the earth. one boot flies out behind me and i push into postures of agility and strength, the sun warming my teeth as i smile. snow crunches against my wrists. i lift and lunge, stand and reach, my hands gather- ing into prayer position and drawing down, slowly, to my heart. “snowga,” my partner calls this new habit of mine: yoga in the snow. often i burst out laughing, especially when images of people doing asanas on tropical beaches come to mind, yet i take this practice seriously. this practice of seeing the rightness in everything rather than zeroing in on what seems wrong. of thanking the cold for charging me awake rather than wincing at the discomfort of it. of admiring the beauty of snowflakes and storms. of appreciating my own wondrous breath and the kindness of a stranger who “un-belly-hangs” my car. it is a practice that invites happi- ness to arise. once i get the hang of it, i add one more step to the prac- tice: dropping the labels altogether and simply allowing things to be as they are. neither “right” nor “beautiful” nor “bloody cold.” Just as it is—this moment, this life. my breath puffs beyond my lips. a spiral of smoke rises from the chimney. i bow to my health. to my stepfather. to this day. in the distance, a family of deer leaps along the hori- zon, antlered angels skimming across a cloud. i bow to them and head inside. it is time to chop wood and melt snow for tea. ♦ stillness of ice and a long, annual death. and there are people less inclined to spontaneous fiestas than to going home, clos- ing the door, and staying there. it has been an adjustment, this move to the eastern shore of lake Huron, a hundred and fifty miles northwest of to- ronto. since arriving here, my vocabulary has increased by two compound words: the first is “storm-stayed,” an adjective that describes the condition of being unable to go out due to excessive snowfall—prolonged whiteouts being a regular oc- currence in this area. my son’s teacher once went to a friend’s house for dinner and was storm-stayed there for six days. the second expression is employed when the buildup of snow in the center of the road is so high that the car’s body becomes suspended, its wheels spinning fruitlessly above the ruts on either side. she’s “belly-hung,” she is, and the driver probably storm-stayed—one condition lending itself quite naturally to the other. that’s charming from a linguistic van- tage point and rather less quaint when it is twenty below, the wind is raging outside the car, there is no cellphone reception, no one has driven by in more than an hour, and a nearby house is a hope rather than a certainty. i have a right to complain, i’m told by those who see the struggle of my transition. and i do for a while, cringing at the weather and the colossal, impersonal grocery store that has re- placed my mexican village marketplace, with its colorful sacks of spices and chilies, its volcanoes of fresh fruits and vegetables, its ancient women with long, grey braids selling eggs, wild berries, and flowers from their gardens. shortly after returning to Cana- da, i visited my new northern supermarket and in the middle of aisle ten, the one devoted entirely to the myriad relatives of the potato chip and its cousin, the carbonated beverage, i laid my forehead on the handle of my shopping cart and briefly wept. i could go on. but i also have a right to be happy, as my mother point- ed out one day on the telephone. “why complain when you could appreciate all you have?” she asked simply. i opened my mouth to argue, but nothing came out. so the next morning, i began with my health, closing my eyes and sinking into the luxury of it. the blissful pulse of life i am so privileged to embody. the tickle of air entering the tunnel of my nostrils and wafting into my chest. the light- song singing into my cell tissue. then to my pillow—lucky head. my hot water bottle—grateful toes. the blanket of col- orful warmth around my body. gracias. i slide out oF bed, don a sweater, and snuggle soft stitched leather around my feet. blessed moccasins hold me I drop the labels and allow things to be as they are. Neither “right” nor “beautiful” nor “bloody cold.” Just this moment, this life.