It’s the 1st of January, the year two thousand and fourteen. It’s hard not to feel ambitious with the strident strokes of the number 1 scratched in quick succession, followed by the number 14, which we haven’t seen in a hundred years.
It’s an auspicious time for making resolutions and working on lists dedicated to a bigger and better you. Fitness challenges range from the 5-day to the 30-day variety. For the culinary-savvy, there’s the Food Lover’s Cleanse. Resolution suggestions are popping up as fast I can click on the Pin It button on my browser, but since I’m currently tapping away at this keyboard, creating black lines on this white space on my screen, the most relevant New Year’s task for me is probably the Zero to Hero blogging challenge.
This is what I have to do: in order to charge forward in the new year, it is worth revisiting old ideas.
I had no clear plan of what to blog about when I wrote Captain’s Log last year. My ideas, my views and my horizons have expanded since then, but the structure of my blog is a little haphazard. In a way, it’s kind of like throwing all the stuff that you think you need into the same bag. The lip balm, hex key and Nurofen don’t really know what to do with each other, but they all serve an important purpose somehow.
I wanted a place to put forth the things that I felt were important, and to be brave enough to examine them in a public domain rather than just scratching away at ideas by myself. I wanted to love the things that I love so fully that they had to be shared – whether I found them in the ocean, in a stone oven, or within the pages of a book. I wanted to always write, because it was one of the earliest ways I knew to be happy.
Since this blog started, I’ve changed my address from one continent to another, and soon, I will do it all over again. I’ve learned how to do all sorts of things that had never fit into my schedule before, including an experiment with art and clay that grew so fast and so big that I’ve had to branched out into a whole new blog, Fio Dio – the shortform to my longform. I’ve walked all sorts of terrain in my mind and in my heart, and visited new places on the world map. At every turn, there was a chance to learn, and I relished having souvenirs in the form of pictures and written memories, perhaps driven by the part of the human psyche that tries to make things last forever.
So perhaps I should start with writing about where I’ve landed myself this new year.
Since moving to Cleveland in July of last year, our stay in the States had been an exercise in observation and non-rigorous participation. In other words, there was no real need for adaptation – that is, up until now. Now, in the midst of a Northeast winter so challenging that it is regularly making headlines, we can officially say that nothing in our shared backgrounds have ever amounted to this much snow.
It started snowing way back in October, at first leaving clumps on the ground, and then sheets. By Thanksgiving, there was enough on the ground for a snowball battlefield, and it grew steadily from then on. Winter was announcing itself, and we were made to listen up. The first challenge we faced was due to the combination of the cold air outside and the dry heated ambiance inside, which made our skin crack and peel. I bought a tube of moisturizer that was ambitiously called “Kiss My Face”, praying it would deliver as promised. Between the scales on the side of my face, and the sloughing of the bridge of my nose, you would hardly want to touch it with a barge pole. S’s hands went through an exfoliation of the dramatic sort, leaving his palms rough and dry, like the Okavango in a drought. For him, I found a hardy tin of the bees’ best works, marketed as a Farmer’s Friend Hand Salve. However, he misread the label, and looked at me suspiciously as he whispered, “Hand slave?”
The days grew shorter, the winds grew chillier, and soon our soccer team disbanded. Come to think of it, so did the the geese and ducks who used to live in scores in the park nearby. I became more reluctant to cycle in the ravaging wind, though S stubbornly persisted, until he finally slipped on a patch of black ice and fell off his bike. From the security of our heated apartment, we drank enormous amounts of coffee and tea while watching it snow from the window. We both harbored a perverse wish for it to snow harder, if only to be able to stare at it in disbelief. A winter wonderland, we agreed, was riveting. But a post-apocalyptic snowscape … what a whale of a tale that would make!
We had decided against buying a car while in the States, making our way on foot, by bicycle, or by public transport. Hence, we had to be very VERY warmly dressed for the weather that would greet us past the front door. The process of dressing for the outdoors was akin to an elaborate costume fitting for a period drama.
To wit; modesty is preserved by the use of several layers for the upper and lower body, ideally one overlapping the other in the manner of leaves on an artichoke. A moisturizing balm is lathered generously upon the feet prior to the covering of said appendages with two or more layers of brightly colored stockings. These will later be enclosed in hardy suede or nubuck boots that offer resilience in inclement weather, as well as traction on icy surfaces. Furthermore, a cylindrical fabric is placed around the neck, where it serves to protect the delicate skin around the area, and may be pulled up towards the eyes in order to brace the lips, nose and cheeks from excessive redness and abrasion if the day were to include dastardly winds. A warm hat is an absolute necessity, as the scalp is well-vascularized and one should take care to reduce the loss of heat by this route. Fetching mittens are applied to the hands up to and beyond the wrists, and finally, a jacket with a good shell and commendable properties of insulation is worn around the body.
Despite this tedious process, once a day, I’d cook up a reason to walk in the cold, in awe of the crisp, clear quality of the air. As the falling snow found purchase on my eyelashes and my stinging cheeks, I wondered constantly about the people who spent most of their lives this way. The Yupik of Siberia, the Inuit of Greenland, and the Sherpa in the Himalayas – how do you do it? I could only surmise that they have struck a trusting relationship with the layers and layers of furs and skins that they use to keep warm. “I believe in you,” they probably say to a patch of yak hide as they wrap it around their feet, “We’ll get through this together, nevermind the ice and slush!” “OK,” replies the yak spirit, “But you must listen to me when I tell you it’s time to go home.”
In the snow, life was a flurry of color upon an obligingly spotless landscape. The lines of the trees and the animals that lived within them were ever crisp, and brilliant hues danced in the white light. I would bare my fingers to work the controls of my camera until I no longer had feeling in them. Then no color. Then a chilling pain. My toes would suffer the same fate, despite the maddening rate at which I wiggle them. And then there would be no more pictures for the time being. The yak has spoken – It was time to go home.
Walking indoors, my fight for survival left me, and all that remained were the pictures, the exhilaration, the stream of words, and figuring out where to put them.
I suppose, in the end, that’s why I blog. Here’s to a new year full of posts.