Keep Me Searchin’ for a Heart of Cold

It seems as if each day has gotten progressively colder since the New Year. But inasmuch as we may have come to detest this nouveau ice-age, there are good things to be had from it. “What?” you may ask…Well, take, for example, our undying ability to adapt: whatever the conditions, we have both the internal climate control of our warm-blooded selves, as well as all the latest fashionable layers to adorn our otherwise very chilly bodies. But beyond all our human capabilities, I think there is something deeper–something that gets at the true core of everything: of who we are. I’m thinking of the common experience, the unity that we all share that no matter where any of us come from, we can each say the same thing: “Damn, it’s cold…” Of course, the temperature isn’t the only thing ‘connecting’ us to one another here, but just think about all the feelings we all do share each morning on the way to our first class: the tickle of wool or the softness of fleece next to you skin as you prepare yourself for the frigid air. That first draft of wind that freezes your eyelashes, just slightly as you push open the door to the outside. The gust that blurs your vision with tears as you traipse down Main Street, pulling your arms in, huddling them close to your torso. That sudden relief you feel when you enter any building with heat as if it were melting a stiff layer of ice off your otherwise unbending posture. The comfort you get when you crawl into bed at night, exhausted from a day of cold, and pull the covers over your body and feel their weight cradle you into a world of your own. Yet, as comforting as these thoughts can be to us, they don’t necessarily remedy this humbling Siberian-like weather. (They do at least give us a taste of what a nuclear winter might be like [ohhh–cheap shot to Bush!]). But more seriously, aside from the suspension-warping frost heaves that turn the roads into rollercoasters and the bone-buckling temperatures that have probably left the fish of Lake Champlain with about ten feet of water, we are all in this together. And isn’t it just a splendid feeling to all be in agreement about something? Humans really are amazing animals: everything about us can change with the weather or any environment for that matter. We’re all different from one another in so many ways, bringing with us a diversity of images, opinions, histories, beliefs, and so much more; but fundamentally, we share a plethora of common traits; mainly, that we are all humans. We are people who have instincts, sensations, emotions. I don’t doubt that a good number of you have never experienced temperatures of this sort your whole lives. And among us all, our instincts cause us to crave one more cups of that cream of broccoli soup (after all, it’s our fat that keeps us warm). Our sensations more-or-less require that we dress accordingly to the numbing chill (since it’s our senses that stem from our instincts: always at work, but not always paid interest). Finally, it’s our emotions that remind us why we chose UVM as our college in the first place: it’s a constantly changing plenitude of new sensations–of wondrous experiences. UVM is a school and a location and a mentality. Perhaps our instincts drove us here in the first place, perhaps not; but it’s our emotions that tell us to stay. It’s our emotions that evoke a realization of a ‘cornucopia of change:’ the ever-evanescent seasons, the tranquility of the rustic woods, the steady bustle of Burlington, the glassy ripples of the Lake down by the waterfront, the crimson and vanilla and lavender hues of the sunsets… It seems quite hard to believe that in three months time we’ll all be wearing t-shirts and tank-tops and flip-flops; but until that day comes, I’m going to try to enjoy the cold. I’m going to dream of fireplaces and old, wooden, creaky floors. I’m going to do my best to give notice to all the little things that pass us by each day without us ever realizing them. And finally, I’m going to try and think about everybody else: of how we’re all basically counting down the days for a heat wave that will push the thermometer to at least 20 degrees…Of how we’re all in this together. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but all this coldness gives me some unique sense of community. It makes me feel like a true part of UVM, it makes me feel human, it makes me feel like a Vermonter.