“I turned the heat up four degrees,” John walked into the living room with an air of resignation wearing a zip up jacket, heavy sweatpants, and chunky wool socks, “and I don’t even care.”
I nod as he sits down next to me on the couch, acknowledging both our tacit agreement to keep the heat low and his deviation from it.
The house is big and poorly insulated and drafty. It’s expensive to heat, fueled by propane that accounts for one of our biggest singular expenses and much of it sits unused; we exist in only so many rooms of this sprawling 1970s ranch style home. Usually we keep the heat on low and bundle up, using a space heater to make our bedroom a little cozier.
We are officially into mid-March, and in the midwest that means circling back to roughly the sixth iteration of winter. Admittedly, it’s been cold for months, but now, with temperatures swinging only just above freezing and regular rains, it’s now cold and damp.
I’m over cold and damp.
The horses are back in winter coats. Ponies have been coming in overnight during the rain and snow, and piggies are still piled in deep, deep bedding that renders them completely camouflaged except for their little snouts sticking up above the hay. I’ve had flashes of “sweatshirt but no coat” chores, but mostly I’m still shrouded in Carhart during my morning and evening rounds.
All of this to say, John can turn the heat up tonight; propane bill be damned.
Winter out here is hard. It’s long and it’s cold. Come February, I’m over it in a way that I can’t quite describe. Come March, during years like this one where the daffodils pop up promising a change of seasons without any evidence of warmth to back them up, I start to feel a bone deep sort of exhaustion.
It’s the weather.
But, also, right now the weather isn’t the only thing making me feel unsteady and tired. There are some big personal uncertainties that it’s probably best not to discuss here, but that have been making me feel unmoored for months.
There’s my mother’s health. She went into the hospital last year in August and has been in and out of the hospital, notably with a nearly two month stint in the hospital in November, and dealing with health difficulties ever since.
There’s the loss of my dear rescue horse, Jiminy, who passed of old age recently, and watching the decline of one of my favorite llamas of late.
It’s the weather, and it’s more than the weather, and it still feels like the weather. It still feels like something is ubiquitous and in the air.
It seems like nearly everyone I know is going through this sort of season. Shaky. Uncertain. I have friends dealing with job uncertainty. Personal uncertainty. Relational uncertainty. We, all of us, seem to be trudging, dragging our feet through mud. Our lives seem to be reflecting the season with its slow growth and the deep chill.
That’s not to say that everything is bad. I’m in a healthy relationship. I have the best friends. Supportive family. I’ve started regularly teaching yoga, which I didn’t expect to do but very much enjoy. And even the unsteadiness offers it’s lessons. I recently told a friend that the unsteadiness in my life is a masterclass in stability.
A while back someone told me that I’m the calmest, steadiest person they know. I didn’t quite know how to respond. It was like they held up a mirror, so that I could see what they see, but that reflection of me seemed like someone else entirely.
I told my dad about that comment later, and he asked how I see myself.
“Oh. Like Beaker. From The Muppets.”
“Which one is that?
“The one that runs around screaming all the time…because he’s on fire.”
Dad shook his head, “I think it’s safe to say that version isn’t entirely accurate.”
John and I picked up a new foster dog yesterday, an 18 month old German Shepherd mix named Steak who the foster organization renamed Stella. She was an owner surrender with her sister to a local animal control.
Honestly, I wasn’t going to bring home any more fosters until my life found some more solid ground, but she was on the (very) short list for euthanasia, and I’m a sucker for German Shepherds. So we carved out a tiny bit of margin in our lives (with a hacksaw, I’m pretty sure) where there previously was none, and we brought her home.
She’s sweet as pie, and anxious, and a little bit dog reactive, so she won’t be as easy a foster as I had hoped, but she also moved from her home with her sister to a shelter with her sister and then to my house without her sister in the span of weeks. The poor thing is scared and overstimulated and confused.
I recognize some of those emotions in myself, I think. And I believe that it’s only a matter of time until she can relax into feeling safe. She’s already starting to recognize some steadiness in me. I’m starting to recognize some steadiness in me.
It snowed last night, as though this spring wasn’t wintery enough without putting on a show about it.
Stella is in her crate licking a peanut butter bone. My dogs are chilling on the bedroom floor while I write and John eats breakfast. We didn’t get great sleep last night; Stella howled her insecurity, making sleep elusive, so that’s something we will have to figure out.
And, we will.
The thing I know about winter is that, eventually, it makes it’s way into Spring. The thing I know about wintering is that it doesn’t last forever. The thing I know about unsteady ground is that, if you keep standing up, it usually teaches you to find your footing.
Meanwhile, chores beckon, as they do every morning.
It’s good to know some things in life are one hundred percent predictable.