Irmgarde Brown

Sister Jane was awarded Best Books of 2021 INDIE by Kirkus Reviews
Harford County Living named Irmgarde Brown, Artist of the Week Jan 24, 2023

Baby It's Cold Outside

Last week, a friend introduced me to a wonderful book, All Creation Waits by Gayle Boss who wrote this book with her own children in mind to make the Advent season, those four weeks prior to Christmas, more meaningful than the typical chocolate coin calendars. Boss has since adapted the book for adults. Her short animal essays (twenty-five of them) beautifully capture the hours, days, and weeks prior to the numbing cold of winter each animal must endure and ultimately adapt, from turtle to chipmunk to fox and even bear. These animal stories have much to teach us about our own relationship with darkness and cold and self-preservation.  

Unlike many winter enthusiasts who can’t wait for the first white flurries and who relish the dropping temperatures as though it’s a long-awaited lover, I start bundling up early. I’m layered whether it’s day or night, covering every inch of skin, and cranking up the heating pad which I use like an old-school hot water bottle tucked under the covers near my tootsies. Even my late husband encouraged me to wear socks to bed when winter hit, otherwise, I brought down the bed’s temperature immediately with my ice block feet.  

I live in Maryland and prior to last week, we were snowless for more than 700 days. In two years, the temperature never dropped below freezing long enough to generate much more than cold rain. And then to make things even more confusing for me, I went on vacation in Florida for a week in early January, came home sick, and then the cold hit with a vengeance along with four or five inches of snow. I wasn’t going anywhere.  Unlike animals, who can’t just pull up the covers and crank up the thermostat, most humans can choose to ignore nature if we really want to. But perhaps we’re missing something.  

As I read Boss’s stories about the intentional slowing down process, I wondered if my burrowing could be more productive if I acknowledged that this could be my body speaking to me. I am, by nature, a very energetic person. I can “go and go” while sightseeing or housecleaning or working in the yard. I can do marathon reading sessions or projects. But can I intentionally stop and “do” nothing? Rarely.  

I have always said I am grateful for living in a part of the country that generally has four seasons (of course, winter is the limpest one of the year). We have gorgeous autumns and springs, and although summer can be steamy, it’s not the entire time. Our winters are tame compared to the Midwest or New England. And perhaps for this reason, I haven’t felt compelled to use this time to snuggle down inside myself and look for an interior kind of hibernation, a renewal of the spirit through pause.  

I finally feel better (post-bronchitis) and so I was about to jump into a big project with all my energy, but now I’m thinking I need to moderate my involvement. I need to set aside some block of time to allow an interior rest that is not driven by illness but by an understanding that soul and body want to be in tandem. If I depend on illness to slow me down, it’s not the same. My conscious self is simply put on a shelf to wait for my body to catch up. No, not this time. Before January ends, I’m blocking out some zero time. It’s a small promise to myself.