If I ever get a tattoo, it’ll be a toss up between a little cartoon buffalo and the Colorado flag “C”. I was born in 1973, the Year of the Ox, bison thrive in Colorado, and my initials are CCC. …I’ll probably get some combination of the two… So there, I’ve just decided! I wonder if I can/will design it myself, or if Daughter will do it?
Here at the end of 2022, in the midst of a polar bomb cyclone gnarling much of the country, I’m happy and grateful to have some time off and a functioning furnace. The shortest day of the season has passed; everything gets lighter for the next 6 months now. So for this post, I share some light and wonder on my mind. Keeping it in my pocket for the still dark days ahead.
Designed to Survive
Driving west on I-70 from Denver, around the Genesee Park exit, I always look for the buffalo herd at the overlook to the north. I have yet to see them in the winter, and I slow down anytime they’re around. I just love these animals–so strong, resilient, and majestic. And HUGE. But the thing that amazes me most is how they can survive the brutal plains winters–their coat, holy cow (pun!)! Its thickness and structure insulates body heat such that snow and ice don’t melt on the pelt, even over such a vast surface area. I wonder if the circulation in their legs and feet have that countercurrent heat exchange anatomy that penguins have? Regardless, this is my spirit animal (sorry, moose). All hail, mighty buffalo.
The Beauty of Nature and Science
I have known for a while that ice takes up more space than water because of the obligatory orientation of oxygen and hydrogen in a frozen state. But it never occurred to me that this is also why snowflakes always have a hexagonal crystal shape. Thanks to NOAA and Scientific American, now I know–it’s still all about molecular structure! And depending on atmospheric conditions surrounding each individual flake as it forms while falling, the crystal takes on its ultimately unique configuration. I also learned that the flakes themselves occur when freezing water vapor interacts with solid particles in the air. Sky ice needs a nidus on which to form–a seed. So does that mean more snow falls in places with more pollution? I wonder how else pollution affects the properties of snow?
Ooo, what analogies can we make to humans here? How do our crystals form in life, and what particles in our environments facilitate what kinds of flakes we become/create? When are we light, airy powder, versus heavy, laden sleet? Fun and philosophical to consider!
Love Really Is All Around
Sister and Brother-In-Law were over last weekend, and we all watched Love Actually–again. It’s still as funny as the first time! And trope-y as it is, I continue to appreciate how the film depicts the various shapes, depths, and circumstances of love in all its forms. Romantic, platonic, parental, marital, fraternal, carnal, unrequited, or other, love and connection between humans are remarkably complex, and worthy of effort and reverence.
It seems like I’ve written every year on this blog how hard things are, how challenging and destructive we humans can be to one another. And it feels worse every year, no? I know this is only partially true. Thankfully, every year I also learn better how to hold the polarity of People Suck and We Are Awesome with more peace and balance. Holidays seem sometimes to amplify both tendencies, and yet reliably, I see connections outshine divisions at this time of year. Take the neighbor who strung Christmas lights from his own house to the lady’s across the street, because he knew she was having a hard time since the pandemic. Then the whole neighborhood started doing it, to the point where a couple who was thinking of moving decided to stay because the community had become so connected. Turns out, showing kindness to others improves our own happiness and well-being. Friend Donna Cameron knows this well, and we all benefit from her writings on it.
Empathy, compassion, and kindness, however, do not require us to give up our own needs–literal selflessness is not necessarily a vitrue. See Adam Grant‘s book Give and Take for an evidence-based treatise on why ‘otherish giving’, a balance of generosity and healthy boundaries, is optimal for relationships and health.
Lastly, props to Topher Payne for writing an alternate ending to Shel Silverstein‘s The Giving Tree. Instead of giving everything to her friend the boy over her lifetime, until there is nothing left of herself but a stump, Tree calls out his self-absorption and negotiates a more respectful, reciprocally loving and fulfilling relationship. I wonder how the world would be if we taught such crucial skills, explicitly, in formal education? I mean is it really less important to know how to take care of each other than how to do algebra?
What light and wonder hold you this season? Please share here and everywhere!
May we all enjoy one another’s presence, openness, grounding, kindness, love, and connection, this holiday and well into the New Year.