Just Go With It

blanketsIt gets so cold in January and God I mind it, warm-blooded creature that I am. It turns out we humans aren’t that good at cheerfully soldiering on when the temperatures really plunge.

It makes me think of something a nice young cardiologist told me he says to his patients.  He tells them, “Embrace the pain,” and I had to smile a little, hearing it. I mean he’s a heart doctor; most of his patients are heart patients.

“How does THAT go over?” I had to ask. I needed him to explain more. “Well,” he said, “you have to just accept your pain on some level. Not fight it, or curse it, or stiffen against it but sort of… open up to it instead. “

 Ok I thought. Maybe the way an animal does, when confronted with the wounded paw or the bitten ear, or the fear of the unknown that arises at the sight of that examining table in the vet’s office.

 It’s a compelling theory; I’ll give him that. Not sure it works with the cold though.

Cold of the kind we have known lately sets off the body’s most unignorable alarm bells. “Danger to the Organism!” it says, the direst message the body can send.

 Because cold is the enemy, plain and simple.  

These days I pity every cold thing I see out there, except maybe the dead in their cemeteries. 

I pity the cemeteries though. The little flags on the veterans’ graves shivering on their wee stalks. The headstones themselves, and the thin old ones especially, blading into those winds that seem bent on completely scouring off the names and dates their engravings seek to memorialize.

I pity the waters in ponds and rivers that got frozen – zap! – all at once, as they rippled; that were just stopped like people in some sci-fi movie, turned to stone in mid-gesture. 

I pity the birds, hopping stiffly about on their sipping-straw legs, finding who knows what to peck from soil that rings like iron under the foot. I pity the squirrel I saw last week, hanging limply from the talons of a hawk that swooped down just eight feet from me to carry him off for supper. My heart pounded at the sight. I thought for a split-second it was one of our cats he carried off.

But no, not the cats.Because the cats are smarter than all of us.  

They stay inside on days like the ones we’ve had lately, lounging around in their pj’s, and sleeping late and waking to lick their paws with all the delicacy of ballerinas smoothing the sides of their satin slippers.

As a matter of fact, the cats gave me the only smile I remember enjoying throughout all of this winter cold.

It was one night when my mate and I were curled in sleep, the only human beings in the house.

Under our pile of quilts and blankets we made a single mound, which the cats, in an uncharacteristic move, decided to scale.

I woke with an unaccustomed sense of pins-and-needles on account of their weight. And I started to shoo them off – until it came to me what we must have looked like: Two little pats of butter on a big warm stack of hotcakes.

That image in mind, I turned over again, thought “Embrace it, girl!“ then hugged my pillow tighter and went back to sleep.