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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Hot and Cold ruminations

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You’re getting warmer. Warmer. WARMER. You’re HOT! Oh you’re so HOT!

This was not the game of dating come-ons. It was the game of HOT and COLD, a hide-and-seek pastime. The person who is “it” goes out of the room while the others remain, and one person hides an object. When the It girl returns, she is coaxed along by clues of warm and cool, hot and cold, depending on her proximity to the hidden object. When she is across the room from it, she is cold. When she is close, she is warm. At times her fingers hover above the object, unbeknownst to her, and the others are screaming HOT HOT HOT—SO HOT YOU’RE BURNING UP HOT, incredulous that she could be missing the object, laughing in glee that she is!

Now I’m playing another game of hot and cold in my menopausal radiance. So hot in a flash that all the A/C in the car at fan speed FOUR does not cool enough. So hot that a walk in winter is the freshest and easiest to take: remove the moisture, let me swallow clear oxygen. I sit in the hot tub, half submerged in hot water (103°F, 39.5°C), half above water, exposed to the cold morning breeze. This is heavenly balance.

In legend, myth and poetry, winter is something to survive, with a sprinkling of Christmas in the middle to lighten its heavy load. I read Rumi and Rilke, and winter is the opposite of love; it is the time when the lover is absent; winter is longing without reward. Or in the Persephone myth, winter is Demeter’s time of grief, when she absents herself to seek her lost daughter in the Underworld.

I’ve always preferred cold to heat, putting a sweater on more than a bikini at the beach. I’d rather seek than find; stand in the corner removed, not in the center of the hot crowd. So what’s the matter with me, who loved winter long before I needed to plunge into ice to escape hot flashes? Maybe the matter is a binary, “fundamentalist” view. After writing these thoughts, I read this from Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul:

Often, when spirituality loses its soul it takes on the shadow-form of fundamentalism. I am not referring to any particular group or sects, but to a point of view that can seize any of us about anything. One way to describe the nature of fundamentalism is through a musical analogy. If you go to a piano and strike a low C rather hard, you will hear, whether you know it or not, a whole series of tones. You hear the “fundamental” note clearly, but it would sound very strange if it didn’t also include its overtones—C’s and G’s and E’s and even B-flat. I would define fundamentalism as a defense against the overtones of life, the richness and polytheism of imagination.

. . . The intellect wants a summary meaning . . . but the soul craves depth of reflection, many layers of meaning, nuances without end, references and allusions and prefigurations.

(pp 235-6; my bold)

Maybe winter is not simply: cold. It is cold with overtones of cool, warm, and much that is not about temperature. I am a polytheistic lover of winter! And stay warm, because I'm going to keep writing about it.




Painting: Pablo Picasso's The Red Armchair
Photo: Bishop and me stepping through a winter nuance
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38 comments:

George said...

As always, it's important for everyone to listen to his or her own life without preconceptions. In the coldest months of winter, something is always ripening, playing hide-and-seek with you, preparing for the moment in which it will spring forth and astonish you with new life. The eye sees differently in winter. By necessity, it must be more discerning, and therein may lie the reason that many find spiritual warmth and comfort in what others regard as simply a cold season.

hedgewitch said...

I was smiling all through this Ruth. Your love of the complexities of cold, not my own favorite thing but I agree most preferable to burning up, is none the less contagious and exhilarating. Winter is an honest season that holds all the other more ambiguous ones in abeyance, and shows bits of the hidden nature of things more freely than any other, I think--she shows the true forms of trees in their cleanly revealed branches, she flushes a change of color on many mammals and birds, a pure new suit of monochrome that gives them as much opportunity for life as she can, but highlights the basic competitiveness and strife as well as the beauty, and she is unrelentingly obvious in her necessary trials that other seasons wrap in gaudy paper and try to disguise. I'm glad she has a poet like you to celebrate her and share her nuance with us. You are definitely HOT in this piece. ;_)

Ruth said...

George, beautifully said. It's true that we look for sustenance most when we need it most. And there is something about what lies sleeping, so quiet, that wants to be explored in its mystery.

Ruth said...

Hedge, I so enjoyed your visit. Your comment gets deep into the vastness of this season. Thank you.

I do love the bare trees!

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

This post is amusing, stimulating and thought-provoking, all at the same time. I have always loved the metaphoric possibilities to be teased out of notes, tones and overtones, but had never considered the thermal implications. But then again, for better or for worse, for me climate change is still an external phenomenon, not the inner cauldron of flush and flashes that I see in the women my age.

It's fun to imagine you in your hot tub surrounded by snow, with these posts bubbling up around you and from you. "Fun" in a nice I way I mean ... well... fairly nice, downright wholesome almost.

Nelson said...

Ruth,

Your conclusion about winter having overtones is right on. As brother and sister we are alike in preferring a sweater to a bathing suit, preferring a northern clime to a southern one.

I'm amazed that I read that chapter in Care of the Soul just two days ago, "Wedding Spirituality and Soul." I'm still working on his distinction between the way of the spirit and the way of the soul, and the need for spirituality to connect with what is soulful. It's going to take some re-reading, methinks....

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, I thought of you when I read, and posted, the Moore passage about overtones. I am afraid I am a pitiful daughter to my musician mother (and mother to my musician son), and friend to you, my music appreciation coach and teacher. So thank you for humoring my mixed metaphors, for truly this was perfectly syncopated with my winter rumi-nations.

Ruth said...

Nelson, so apparently our mother's people won out, keeping us in the north.

Amazing that you were reading this same chapter so recently. I think you and I will spend the rest of our lives together working out the endless nuances of spirit and soul.

California Girl said...

I can relate to the HOT HOT HOT syndrome and seeking respite in A/C or, better still as you say, by a walk in Winter. I seldom think of my hot flashes, which are extreme even though I'm past menopause, as a "balance" of anything. Perhaps it is. Perhaps my body is continually trying to balance despite the end of menses five years ago. Perhaps if I try to find that balance, I won't be so vulnerable to the unexpected rush of heat from my body multiple times daily.

On another note, I was struck by the beautiful painting by Jan Mankes, with whom I'm unfamiliar. I am glad you linked to the web page about him as his work is ravishing. Thank you!

The Broad said...

You are always so thought provoking! I love each of the four seasons for their variety. Winter for the bareness of the branches -- showing the shape of things to come -- and for ice and snow (when I can get it)and even freezing temperatures with the promise of a fire in the hearth to thaw my frozeness. And in the summer I love the heat but with a shady spot that promises the cool breeze and the cool lake waters that soothe -- My love of both is sensual -- without both I am not whole.

Suman said...

How very beautiful and intriguing! "I’d rather seek than find; stand in the corner removed, not in the center of the hot crowd" - at the moment, I couldn't relate to anything more befitting in the whole wide world.
Regarding the winter posts, I'm absolutely ready for the deluge! I love winters too, and the inexplicable togetherness of the chill and its numbing.

who said...

It was an awesome thought process Ruth. Heat and cold, as I see them, are two different types of the same thing. Everything is oscillating or moving or vibrating.

hot is the molecules moving quickly and furiously, cold is also moment. It is the molecules moving slowly.

and the greater the difference there is in the motion (when the division between the hot and cold is the most exteme) that motion is dispersed with the most force it is when the transfer of that motion between hot and cold, comes the quickest and the hardest

missing moments said...

Lovely thoughts and look forward to your winter posts.

Jeanie said...

Well, you will be in your glory, for they say it will be a cold one this year! I'm more of a "warm" person, or at least neutral. But I know where you're going with the hot and cold thing. It will pass. Trust me!

Arti said...

Beautiful quote from Thomas Moore... "the soul craves depth of reflection, many layers of meaning, nuances without end, ..." Every Christmas season I try to read something that anchors me to the spiritual amidst the chaos and torrents. But the paradox is that, it's through such cacophonies that one can experience the 'multi-layered' realities, and it's from those noises that I learn to treasure silence.

Peter said...

I first wondered what Thomas More could have written about fundamentalism, but then I realised that this is a Thomas MoOre and I must admit I didn't know of him. Cleverly written all this, by you and by him! I agree - to be sensible to overtunes is essential, I would say for everything in life, not only to the winter. :-)

steven said...

ruth, i'll soon be dressing for my bike ride to school. i wear three "performance" layers then a down vest, then a waterproof jacket. on the bottom half of my body - five layers. all protection to retain heat!!! it also offers some cushioning in case i drop on the snow as my wheels go out from underneath me.
i loved reading this piece of yours because it places me completely inside the space i arrived at mid-way through last winter where i found a sweet spot that allowed me to see beyond surviving and back into the more whole and available kind of relationship i prefer to have with most anything. steven

"Auntie" sezzzzzz... said...

Heat/humidity make me wilt. I prefer mild weather or early Autumnal coolness. But if my choice was: Hot or Cold, I would take Cold.

Sorry you are having hot flashes. Very sorry. I only had about ONE. Had a very easy change.

Do you have a doc or a pharmacist, who believes in herbal remedies? That's a lose term, not meant to cover crack-pot-ideas. But the real and working use of Herbal Remedies.

"The holly's up, the house is all bright,
The tree is ready, the candles alight:
Rejoice and be glad, all children tonight!"

~~P. Cornelius

erin said...

I’d rather seek than find.

i tackle you to the snow. you need no sweater! i am too busy punching you warm with love))))

jesusgod, what thomas moore says of the solitary note. oh god, i will tackle him as well. we will all be in the snowbank, our asses in cold and our heads in light! another holy menopausal balance:)

(i was hoping you would tell me menopause is a myth.)

xo
erin

Ruth said...

California Girl, noooooo, don't tell me your hot flashes are extreme even past menopause. :( I'm so so sorry.

Isn't Jan Mankes tremendous? I don't recall how I found him, oh! It was the Parabola e-newsletter.

Ruth said...

To The Broad, I'm with you about the bare branches, ice and snow, and even the cold weather. I don't love the heat of summer, but if I can find shade, I'm pretty good. And I need the summer too; I would not want it always winter.

And what about fall and spring? I like when they linger on in cool-warmness.

Ruth said...

Suman, I'm so happy to know a fellow winter lover in you. We can keep warm together.

Ruth said...

Dusty, I am grateful that you (and Don) understand the physics of hot and cold. Don's been explaining weather patterns to me our whole marriage, and why those storms flare up between the hot and cold patterns.

Ruth said...

Reena, I'm glad I have an audience in you.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, hopefully, but did you read California Girl's comment?

:|

Ruth said...

Arti, your thoughts are beautiful. Yes, I think you're right that the cacophonies make the silence and meaning more valued. I, too, have been reading to find some Christmas spirit. I read (maybe for the first time?) A Christmas Carol and then his next tale Chimes. The next in Dickens Christmas tales is Cricket on the Hearth. I treasure how he gives voice to the poor at Christmas. I want to read some O. Henry too, for the same reason. What we have now is a time to reawaken to the gifts we've been given, especially through love of family and friends. The other stuff doesn't matter much.

Ruth said...

Peter, smiles about the More and Moore. You know how much I admire you for always discovering more overtones of Paris; so much beneath the surface there, enough for many lifetimes.

Ruth said...

steven, I admire your determination to continue riding to school up in the North Bay through the winter! I cringe to think of the layers being for protection from a fall as well as for heat. I also admire your determination to find that sweet spot in relation to all things, even those that might only be survived by someone else. This is the essence of living in Joy.

Ruth said...

Auntie, I have not looked much into herbals, but that is what I would choose, and not Premerin or something. I have heard about a product called ICool, which is supposedly all vegetable hormone, and over the counter.

Ruth said...

erin! I loved the romp in the snow with you and Thomas!

No myth, unfortunately. But very gratefully, hot flashes seem to be the worst of it for me. I am not grumpy, for instance. :) I do have "insomnia" but have managed to make the most of it. I get six hours of sleep from 9 to 3; I love my dark morning hours, as you know.

Every woman is quite different, and maybe you will escape harsh symptoms. I hope.

deb colarossi said...

There is something incredibly enticing to me about a a path into the woods on a snowy moonlit night. I want to get out of the van where I am parked waiting on some child or another and go. Wrap the blanket from the back around my shoulders and go.

( and I am having night sweats. not flashes. sweats. soaked . so I wake up shivering, must clean up , change, freshen the bed, etc . )

Jane Lancaster said...

thanks for mentioning the M word. I am dealing with the M myself and a must say after months of it I've wussed out and started taking something... :) But your image of cooling off in the snow is so lovely ruth. Reminds me of that scene at the end of Women in Love only he is not in the menopause! ha!

Susan said...

Since acquiring the woodburner, I can relate to the need to walk outside in the cold. I've even gone out barefoot onto the cold, cold floor of the porch for some relief. :) It's feeling darned wonderful these last two mornings though...seventeen yesterday, fourteen today. Brrrrr!

Ginnie said...

Add me to the cold-zone huggers, Ruth, which is perhaps why I love it here in Holland so much, more similar to Michigan's clime than Georgia's! I love having to get warmer instead of colder, if that makes any sense!

I especially like the way you started this off with that hot-warm-cool-cold game we loved playing. A great juxtapositioning with the rest of this wonderful post!

Loring Wirbel said...

We already had one day in Colorado with a high of 8F. Thankfully, it's better now, but I now have a black wool toque and a big Russian fur hat with ear flaps to trade off for those very cold days.

Oliag said...

I seem to have solved my night time temperatures by simply having one half of me toasty warm under down and fleece while one leg remains exposed to the unheated air of our bedroom....I seem to have found warmth with some overtones of cool:)

I love winter nearly as much as you and still await our first good snow!

Margaret said...

menopausal radiance... I think that is the most positive spin on this that I have ever heard! ha

Thomas Moore... My daughter, Chelsea, is named after the home he loved and my youngest has his middle name. My oldest son took him on as his "Saint". His words have often calmed my spirit...

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

Imagine Picasso knowing you would need a portrait of your red armchair and you!

So...winter is to being as white is to light? That fascinates me. Glad you shared Moore's quote.