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My Mind on Winter

August in the mountains and I can feel summer begin to ebb.  At the prairie house, I‘d be staring down the barrel of at least two more months of way-too-hot-for-me weather, while nearly 4000 feet higher this morning’s temperature registered in the upper 40s.  Already the days have cooled from what passes as scorching in late June and July—a burning, high altitude 85 degrees–and there are nights when I pull an extra comforter over the bed as we sleep with the French doors thrown wide.  Last night, eating dinner on the deck, Greg and I noticed a few gold aspen leaves on a single tree and there’s been an increased urgency at the hummingbird feeders: both harbingers of what is to come.  We are each a bit dreamy about the first snowfall, talking about waking up to soft down falling from the sky and the hopeful luxury of a morning in bed.  Meanwhile, we spent our Sunday hauling a cord of split pine to add to the half cord of rounds we already have—our insurance policy against cold autumn days as we wait for oak delivery in December.

Although it goes without saying that we feel a bit frantic with the twin imperatives of settling in to our new home coupled with our before-winter laundry list of tasks—service the furnace, sweep the chimney, fix and stain the deck, make a space for Greg’s workshop beneath the carport, get plants in the ground—I am happy to be back where my days are ordered by weather, where I can rely on the season to take the lead instead of the force of my  go-go-go personality.  How lovely to give into a blessedly cool and rainy day with a book on the couch or spend the quiet of October snow by the fireplace.  What bliss to forego the trip to town because it means an 80 minute round trip drive to do one more errand.

 

I need excuses to relax—and nature provides.

 

Already I’ve noticed a calmness come over my too often too sharp edges; although the days are indeed crowded with tasks, my mind isn’t registering on full tilt. Gone are the distractions of the prairie house, the feeling of being constantly stimulated by heat, by sound, by the proximity of people.  There, the volume on my brain too often blared a discordant tune, distractions registering as anxiety-producing static.  Interestingly, I believe I come by this condition by blood.  My father used to say that loud music bothered him, asking my teenage brothers and me to turn the stereo down lower, lower.  He blamed his sensitivity on working for so many years inside Cheyenne Mountain where the industrial hum of 1970s refrigerator-sized computers marked his days.

But I believe it’s biology. Like me, my father settled in the mountains.  I don’t know the name for what I suspect is our shared brain chemistry is, all I know is that my head needs space and distance to help calm it down, I need the natural world to balance me out, something I had very little of in our house in a prairie town circled by highways.

This morning, after four years of holding my breath for comfort, for solace, my mind is on winter, and the prospect of dark, cave-like days on the mountain, along with the utter stillness of winter nights and the solace each provides. The feeling is like slowly eating cake with butter cream icing, like a good red wine, like waking from a deep sleep wrapped in another’s embrace:  Let it come.

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Author

info@karenauvinen.com
Karen Auvinen is poet, mountain woman, life-long westerner, writer, and the author of the memoir Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living. Her body of work traverses the intersection of landscape and place, and examines what it means to live deeply and voluptuously, and has appeared in The New York Times, The Columbia Review, Ascent, The Cold Mountain Review, and Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour, among others. Awards include two Pushcart Prize nominations, a Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Imagination Award, two Academy of American Poets Awards, and a Jentel residency. She earned an MA in poetry from the University of Colorado and a Ph.D in fiction from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and presently teaches film and media studies to freshman at the University of Colorado – Boulder. Past gigs include Writer-in-Residence for the State of Colorado, editor, book-buyer, rural postal route driver, caterer, clinic assistant, landscaper, summer camp director, and guest chef. She lives in Colorado with the artist Greg Marquez (www.artquez.com), their dog River, and Dottie the Cat.

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