Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn secretly wrote One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich during the Cold War, and now, decades later, during this unforgiving winter, I am warmed by the sense of dignity and hope he instills in his gulag–bound characters. Not to diminish the suffering of the 5,000,000 prisoners who endured cruelty and hardships under Stalin’s rule, but I too am feeling the burdens of this winter season. Crushing cold, violent storms, grey upon white, and a stretch of days ahead that screech more of the same. Survive? Well yes, I will, but I will certainly steal from the wisdom of Solzhenitsyn to make it through. After all, with day after day of sub-zero weather this winter, we can all feel Siberia in our very bones, right? And we need his words more than ever…
Thankfully my survival depends on my own constructs, and is not predicated on outsmarting corrupt guards in a work camp. I find small promises where I can, like sipping my Sunday morning tea in bed. Hot and black with frothed milk. And yes, snuggled under a down comforter. The raw day can wait…
Fresh Florida Orange Juice, is another important survival tool for Northerners. I generally squeeze a few days worth on a Sunday and then bring that liquid sunshine with me for a morning snack during the week. But the joy of making it! Ah, that task fills my whole kitchen with the smell of orange. A summer color, lost to us right now in the monochromatic winter is such a warm reminder of what is only a few months ahead.
Spend an afternoon in the woods. Bundle up and get outside. The other day at yoga class I talked to two women who are ski instructors. They were out on the slopes with -25 on the thermometers and a windchill that actually closed schools. How I asked? Layers they told me. Many many layers. I did not venture out into the woods at that frigid temperature, but once the reading crossed above the freezing mark I did and made sure to dress warmly in layers.
One must look up. Surrounded by the green pines, tall and stretching toward the apex of sky, they remind us to do the same.
Take a moment to stop. Throw your poles down. Breathe in the refreshing air. These precious instances will get you through.
As day drifts into night, cook up something hot, spicy hot, and make enough to invite your crew. Community will warm you as much as a scrumptious meal.
Don’t forget to pour some bubbly and toast your good fortune. Winters come, and winters go, and with the words of such great authors as Solzhenitsyn we grow wiser along the way. In comparison to all the inhumanity he reveals in his novel, we have nothing but a bit of cold to endure; a cold season that will melt away, very soon!