This was last night, and no, I didn't buy a hot tub. I don't even own a bathtub - this was at a dear friends' home. I called up to ask if I could stop by because my dance card was empty. The holes wet no longer being punched by defrosting pipes or pulling ice balls from between paw pads. I wanted a little respite, and I sure got it. The past few days had offered a snow storm, a rush of intense -12 degree cold nights, frozen pipes, heavy blankets, and uncomfortable animals. One of the most uncomfortable animals was me - as I couldn't get my house above 55 degrees even spending the whole day at home with the fires roaring. It was simply too cold.
This experience in the tub had me thinking about warmth. Depending on where you live (or how you live) being warm is either taken for granted, annoyingly excessive (we call this being hot), or not thought about at all. We live in this weird blip of history when constant comfort is considered "normal" but darling, around here, warm is not a constant. At this farm temperature comes from fire and light, from wool and warm bodies, from fur and hide, and occasionally - from electric outdoor units of wonderful. I savored being warm because while it isn't rare, it isn't normal for me. I spend most of my time outdoors or at my office computer - both of which aren't heated. The heart of my home is the downstairs -which is heated by wood stoves, some space heaters, wool blankets and two dogs. Being warm is something I need to plan, to work towards. Getting my house to around 60 degrees takes a few hours of stoking, tending, presence, and forethought. Occasionally, it also takes whisky.
Homesteading requires these things and for some people it seems downright ridiculous. To be a servant to your own microclimate in a world of modern heating and air conditioning seems like a form of bravado, pseudo-masochism, or general hogwash. Wood stoves and animals tie you to a place, make you turn down dinner invitations to homes six miles away, and reacquire getting up in the middle of a REM period to throw another log on the fire. In a modern world, where comfort is literally a button away, why live like this?
Because I like it.
I like heating with firewood. I like being needed to create primal needs for my own survival. I like making a fire the same way I like learning a new fiddle tune or knitting a new hat. It's creation, but utilitarian and therefore holy to me. I love my farm house's need for me. For so many people their houses are just places they sleep and store the ketchup - but here the house is tended to just like any other living creature. It needs inputs, excretes outputs, and only thrives on constant attention. That doesn't mean it looks beautiful or couldn't use some power washing, hammer, nails and a dump truck - but the bones are good. You walk into my house on a night like tonight and you'll be covered in warmth. There's big dogs, hot stew, a blazing fire, music, candle light, song and stories. You can set a cat on your lap and knit while watching a movie or get a gang together for a board game, music jam, or just talking and laughing. It's another kind of warmth and I depend on it to keep me going just as much as the physical kind.
I don't think any less of people who use conventional heat and I don't think firelight is necessary to be a fully-actualized human being. There are plenty of things I do around here (or don't do and should) that other homesteaders would roll their eyes at. Don't take my aloofness to comfort as judgement to your personal attachment to it. I just wanted to share that last night I was warm and it felt amazing, and just a few years ago I would have never even thought about warm as a noun. Homesteading changed that. It made me savor the gift of being warm in January. For that, I am grateful.
I'll leave you tonight with this:
Back in college I spent one night over at Lehigh University, which had a wonderful Rinzai Zen Monk that taught and ran meditation sessions. One of my fellow meditators was a man named Keith, who was in his late forties and came to the University for the same reason I did - to find stillness. He had a physical job that left him sore and in the sessions we would sit without moving for around 40 minutes. I remember one day he was backing up his mediation cushion and rubbing his back, and he said with absolute genuineness - "I really need to stop preferring to not feel pain". Keith did not see discomfort sitting still as good or bad, just a preference. When I asked him to explain what he meant he smiled warmly and said "No one ever died from sitting still for 45 minutes, Jenna. Being a little cold, hot, pained, or wet from a rainstorm isn't going to end your life. but demanding comfort at all times is definitely killing people"
I will never forget that. My mind split open. I realized then and there I didn't need to be a victim of preference. If I get cold I observe it, accept it, and keep working. If I get cut open or fall down, I do the same thing. And when I'm warm and heavenly-wrapped in booze and hot tubs I observe that, accept that, and savor it - but do not dare prefer it. Because preferring pleasure over pain is as ridiculous as getting upset at the weather.
I know that is a hard pill to swallow, but if you can take one lesson from this blog it would be this: don't let your preference to be comfortable get in the way of the joys of being uncomfortable. And you don't have to shut down your oil furnace and install a wood stove to learn that. You just need to sit still. Or, you know, not freak out if you leave your umbrella at home and it starts to rain on your morning commute. Come of think of it. I don't even know anyone who owns an umbrella up here? When it rains, we get wet. Or our coats, hoodies, cloaks, and uniforms do. So what. I say go into the office with running mascara, frizzy hair, and a smile. Why prefer to be perfect? Why prefer the pointlessness of peer approval for a dry outer skin-like covering and a costume? Watch out or you'll spend your whole life serving your preferences (or worse, someone else's) not out of love, but force. Don't play that game. I may be the worst person in the world to offer life or dating advice but I know this much:
Just get wet. It's the best.