During the first winter Jack and I were married, our terrestrial New Orleans shanty breathed frost. It was an ancient swamp shack that had been fortified, over and over for a hundred years, by layer after layer of dust and cobwebs and cheap paint and cheaper vinyl siding.
The floorboards were the originals with chinks that ran from one end of the room to the other, wide enough that the chill crept in and licked our slippers. The ceilings were so high that any hot air was lodged out of reach, like the fox’s grapes, so on the coldest nights, we’d all pile into bed together under a mountain of blankets with a little ceramic floor heater cranking out the sweet, balmy breath of summer. By all, I mean all of us, cats, dog, kid, everybody, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style.
And it was fun.
We giggled a lot and introduced Fain to our favorite childhood movies like Johnny Dangerously and Cabin Boy and Joe Versus the Volcano. We played some video games and had breakfast in bed.
It created an instant bond, that cold.
This new life is something else entirely. It’s a brisk walk outside to everything, including the bathrooms. There are none of the comforts of home; two of us are still sleeping in hammocks. At 65°F, it’s already cold to me. I’m a delicate hot house flower who flourishes best in an orchid’s natural habitat. Long johns and thick socks are a requirement anytime the temperature dips below 75°F.
I know. Woe is me.
Still, we’ve never roughed it like this for this long.
A part of me is nervous.
Another part of me is giddy.
I do like long johns and thick socks. The idea of bundling up with Fain and Jack and the animals in the belly of the rocking boat, hands wrapped around mugs of hot cocoa listening to podcasts and making plans – it’s not without its charm. And it’s actually nice to feel the cold a little, to not be perfectly comfortable. It makes wrapping myself up in all those blankets even cozier.
Reading Alan Watts Out of Your Mind, this morning, I came across this passage:
So, again, existence is relationship. If I put my finger up and nothing touches it – the wind, somebody else – it will stop knowing that it’s there. It takes two.
That captures the thought that keeps recurring as we work our way through what feels like the hard part of our endeavor.
The more comfortable I am, the more convenient my life is, the easier it is to slip into auto-pilot. I forget that I’m living and just start existing, going through the motions.
That’s not necessarily problematic, but it can create problems, like being ungrateful or bored or uninterested in the world. Like forgetting that at any moment, things could change drastically – for the better or the worse. Forgetting that one warm day will be the last warm day of the year, and I don’t get to know which it will be, so I have to enjoy them all.
When I’m off to the bathroom in the wee hours of the morning, the stars glittering in the cold air, my breath crystallizing, flanked by a two cat escort, I’m certainly chilly and not nearly as comfortable as I’d be in a conditioned two-bedroom house, but it’s good also to feel the cold on my cheeks. It’s good to be just a teensy bit uncomfortable. It’s invigorating. As my cheeks tingle, I remember: I’m alive!
We’ve got an entire year of new experiences ahead of us. We’ve experienced summer on a boat on the hard with triple digit temperatures and hurricanes edging past us. Now, it’s time to see what the fall and winter will be like aboard the Shanti in the water. If nothing else, we get to experience familiar things in unfamiliar ways, which makes even unpleasant things like the cold interesting.