By Pamela Noel
Special to Plumas News
She squatted in front of the wood stove, stretching her back after a day’s work in the garden. Having recently cleaned the glass in the stove door, she could see and feel the warmth of the flames entering her body—everything in her body starting to unwind.
With the temperatures in the twenties at night, she felt pulled into her own winter portal…adjusting…asking herself what kind of shift she needed as she crossed this seasonal threshold. Her appetite experienced a sudden increase. She needed extra fuel to keep warm. Stews, soups…anything hot to keep the inner flame burning.
As much as she had enjoyed summer this year, she also welcomed fall and winter descending upon her community. Early darkness gave her the chance to slow the pace of outer activity. The last minute scurrying to put away anything that would be affected by weather was now completed. Patio umbrellas were down, fire wood undercover, bicycles hidden under tarp blankets, in case a break in the weather suggested a quick ride between showers.
She wanted to enjoy this brief respite before holiday activities ran the show. A tall steaming cup of tea, a hot bath, and a good book were just the recipe for the evening ahead. So much revolved around keeping warm in her world.
Pondering about her need for warmth—the warmth of temperature as well as the warmth of companionship, she felt grateful for the wonderful and life-long friends in her life. A dear friend would often ask what she needed…helping her stay on track with herself. Finding this question challenging to answer, distinguishing between needs and wants felt difficult now. She thought, “We all have a need for food, water, shelter—basic needs. But what about higher level needs for companionship, love, self-fulfillment? Does needing these indicate a lack of “enoughness” with oneself? Is no “man” really an island?”
No, she really did feel like she was enough for herself…and she also felt the need for human companionship, touch, communication. “We are humans, and we are put on this earth to have a human experience”, she often heard quoted.
So what exactly does this “human experience” encompass? Does it include everything that is available and presented to us? How do discernment, discrimination, and awareness affect our choices? And has our ability to think critically about those choices become submerged beneath a louder, more prevalent digital voice?
“Perhaps age makes me think about these questions”, she thought. “I wonder if every generation of humans has looked back over a lifetime, thinking that humanity becomes more challenged with every passing year. Is progress really progress? Is it fuel or the byproduct of a corporate bottom line?”
Somehow these greater questions entered her being when given the quiet of oncoming winter. Just thinking about her own needs tended to veer into that of all humanity. Bringing it back to her own life, she realized that worrying about humanity might be a distraction away from knowing what her own inner life required. These greater human questions are absolutely ones that needed to be addressed, and, by not spending time in her own “inner space”, she would not be a viable part of the greater answer.
With this thought in mind, she decided to let the cares of the world drift away. When the next moment presented itself, she would attend to it, doing what she could. She would be ready to address that moment, rather than visiting the past, future, and other realms unreachable to her now. Focusing on the flames and warmth of the wood stove, she decided to just sit, feel, relax, breathe and imagine all those ruminations going up the chimney with the smoke.