An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of December 1, 2013
Issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center
in the valley of the Dry Frio River in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas,
on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA

COLD SNAP

The same winter storm that earlier in the week caused a mess for Thanksgiving travelers along the US Eastern seaboard, a few days earlier had passed just north of us. It brought us several days of overcast sky, drizzle, nighttime rain and near freezing temperatures. Here it's unusual for such weather to last so long. Normally if a cold wave passes through the next day is sunny and warmth soon returns.

The enduring cold was reminiscent of my hermit days in Mississippi when sometimes I stayed in my warm sleeping bag most of the day letting time pass, reading and listening to the radio. As was the case back then, this week's coldness was uncomfortable, but it left me feeling grateful for having experienced it.

Juniper House has gas heating, and gas is cheap, but this week I didn't figure it was cold enough for that. I wore extra layers of clothing and worked at the computer with blankets over my legs. If the cold started bothering me I put on hot water for tea, variously brewing Artemisia, aloe and juniper, and sometimes nothing at all, just hot water.

It was fine sitting in Juniper House's big-windowed room looking into the soggy, nearly frozen, somber woods, cupping hot tea in my hands and listening to, maybe, string quartets or Chopin etudes. It was a cozy, calm feeling, and a feeling that set me to thinking, and noticing things.

For example, I'll always remember those untold numbers of silvery water droplets dangling from dark green liveoak leaves just outside the windows, how the leaves and droplets created a kind of diffuse aura around the oak's gnarly, widely spreading, intricately branching, black trunk. As I sat there, it occurred to me that the tree was like the music, diffuse staccato 16th-notes structured around a dark, solid walking baseline. And after I'd savored that insight awhile, it further occurred to me that both tree and music were like the effervescent aura of thoughts clustering around my bone-and-tissue body cupping hot tea and looking out the window. And after thinking about that awhile, suddenly it was clear that tree, music and I all were like the broader Universe itself, with all its sparkling stars and billions of swirling galaxies diffusely structured on Nature's oak-tree-trunk-like, throbbing-baseline-like, bone-and-tissue-like immutable Laws.

I'm grateful to the cold snap for setting me onto that train of thought, which needs to be gone through from time to time, to remind me of how I fit in this world. Also I'm grateful to be reminded what a miracle warm sunlight is after a long cold snap.

In fact, now more than ever it's clear that I could never return to that world in which a certain thermostat setting is chosen, and then life is lived amidst similarly insulating settings, rules, regulations and cozy conventions. Let it be known that unequivocally and irredeemably I am one for the world of bumps, stains, stinks and fragrances, harmonies and dissonances, farts, burps, horselaughs, sweaty summers and cold snaps. Facebook Icon.