Every day it gets colder – November creeping towards December, autumn slipping away. The temperature falls and my emotions correspond, obeying digits I had forgotten all about. On clear days, it’s alright; the sun, although weak, better than no sun at all. Today, wet, it’s different: my body literally freezing, my fingers and toes numb. Fumbling for things I can no longer feel, tripping over feet that have forgotten how to operate: my heart aches, pining a climate that’s suddenly so far away, it gets harder to recall.
Stealing clarity from my eyes, my head bleeds distorted images: featureless faces, blurred silhouettes. Signposts are ink splats. Information boards, written in a foreign script – their difference familiar, only this time my mother tongue escapes me.
Rain, clouds, puddles, people. A broken umbrella, a wet hat, damp feet. Shopping bags, pushchairs, rucksacks, elbows: in my face. Arms breaking, legs aching; feeling invisible. Everywhere I go: open doors, insufficient heating; traffic, crowds. Finding somewhere to sit and work: nearly impossible. Heat: hard to come by. I’m beginning to understand what it must have been like for the bards of yesteryear: the pains they had to encounter, the sacrifices they would have made. Not that it’s been easy up until now, but there have been seasons, consecutive, where circumstances were favourable. Coming back is a shock.
Looking to the future: I picture a warm flat, a comfortable chair, a large table housing a steaming pot, a lap accommodating a small dog, carols on the stereo, a body humming happily (industrious) in the kitchen; privacy, security, home-sweet-home. Rose-tinted and chocolate-smelling, it’s the ‘any day now’ to which I cling.
Winter is always difficult: I miss the light, mourn the sun. But it has its benefits… Christmas is the season to be jolly – if you’re in the right place, at the right time, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of material activity with a pound (or several) lining your pocket and time (plenty) to spare. There are markets, concerts, services, carols… Colourful window displays. Overhead lights. There’s panto and parties. Mulled wine and minced pies. Gingerbread men, candy canes, chocolate in boxes. Flowers, wreaths, decorations. Paper hugging assorted gifts: good, bad; pretty, ugly. And while it might be a superficial fix – attached only to the moment, the month; irretrievable once it has run itself out: it’s no less effective for it, proving as competent a plaster as alcohol, coffee and cigarettes.
In addition to that: writing about kittens, sketching snowmen, knitting Christmas trees… tiny pleasures that help.
by Rebecca L. Atherton
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